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Record breaking heat makes conditions deadly for Flying-foxes at Yarra Bend Park

Saturday 26 January, 2019

To avoid a catastrophic wildlife loss similar to the event in Queensland last year, Parks Victoria staff and 20 volunteers were at Yarra Bend Park today spraying the heat-stressed Grey-headed Flying-foxes with water to keep them cool.

Grey-headed Flying Foxes, also known as fruit bats, are a threatened species that provide an important ecosystem service, being some of the most efficient pollinators and seed dispersers in Australia.

Parks Victoria Grey-Headed Flying-Fox Project Officer Stephen Brend said the group’s efforts combined with the cool change this afternoon provided life-saving relief to Victoria’s largest colony of the species.

“Unfortunately, we did lose a few hundred bats because of the extreme heat”, he said.

“This latest heatwave was particularly stressful for the bats as, last night, there was no cool relief.”

“We knew the heatwave was going to be a risky for the flying-foxes and so closed the park to minimise disturbance to the colony and risk to the public until it cooled down.”

“We’re so grateful for the help of these dedicated volunteers, braving the 40-plus degree heat to take care of this nationally threatened species.”

Volunteers included members of the local Friends of Bats and Bushcare group and a vet who has previously worked at Zoos Victoria.

Grey-headed Flying-foxes are listed as a threatened species at both Federal and State levels due to their population decline. This means there is a legal requirement to support their conservation. It is estimated there are currently 27,000 bats at Yarra Bend Park, which is the largest permanently occupied ‘bat campsite’ in Victoria.

The colony was relocated back in 2003 from the Royal Botanic Gardens when the population became too large for the area. A ground-breaking wildlife management experiment was undertaken to successfully move them and ensure their long-term survival in Melbourne.

About Grey-headed Flying-foxes and extreme heat

  • Newborns and juveniles are most likely to die from heat stress. High losses of young animals during heatwaves has a major impact on population recovery. Spraying with cool water and moving them to shady locations can help their survival.
  • Access to the Yarra Bend colony during extreme hot weather is restricted for both public safety and animal welfare. Closing Bellbird Picnic Area minimises disturbance to the bats and prevents accidental contact between people and the bats. The chance of encountering a bat is increased on very hot days as the bats move lower down in the trees and may even come to the ground.
  • Conservation work undertaken in the Park includes revegetation and habitat enhancement; outreach and community engagement activities.  During heat waves Park staff and volunteers provide assistance to heat stressed bats as well as any emergency management required.

About Parks Victoria

Parks Victoria is a statutory authority that manages and protects the best of more than 3,000 of Victoria’s different parks and reserves making up 18 per cent of Victoria’s landmass, 75 per cent of Victoria’s Wetlands and 70 per cent of Victoria’s Coastline.

Parks Victoria is committed to delivering works on the ground across Victoria’s park network to protect and enhance park values. It is our primary responsibility to ensure parks are healthy and resilient for current and future generations. This includes world class conservation projects, facilities and experiences across the estate.

Healthy Parks Healthy People is at the core of everything Parks Victoria does.  Parks and nature are an important part of improving and maintaining health, both for individuals and the community. Parks Victoria has a clear role to play in connecting people and communities with parks.

Media enquiries
Stephanie Zilles
8427 3466

Parks Victoria media centre