As ABC TV in Australia reported earlier this year, "Now is not a good time to be a Flying Fox."
The grey-headed Flying-Fox, which is listed as vulnerable under Australia's Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, may soon be facing eviction from Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.
A growing colony of flying foxes has made its home in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens for nearly a century. Although flying foxes have been present in the Gardens since the 1920s, the camp increased dramatically in size during the 1990s, echoing the "urbanization" of bats in Australia's metropolitan areas. The up to 22,000 flying foxes delight tourists who visit the Botanic Gardens, but are slowly damaging some the Garden's heritage trees.
The Botanic Gardens Trust was granted permission by the Australian government to "relocate" the Flying Foxes this year using noise disturbance and other methods, similar to a flying fox relocation from Melbourne's Botanic Gardens in 2003. But due to issues raised regarding potential harassment and sleep deprivation, interference with flying fox breeding and roosting patterns, and lack of nearby appropriate resettlement locations, the Botanic Gardens has postponed the flying fox relocation until May-June 2011, while it conducts extensive research and monitoring.
A coalition of animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society International in Australia, animal rescue group WIRES and several bat conservation organizations, has raised concerns that the proposed relocation plan poses a number of risks to the flying fox colony.
The Humane Society also reports that the grey-headed flying-fox is in decline in Australia and internationally: "The decline is so extreme that the species could be extinct in around 80 years unless an effective recovery plan is implemented."
Today and tomorrow, the Australian court will hear arguments from both sides. Until a decision is handed down, Sydney's grey-headed Flying Fox will remain an unwanted tenant in its chosen habitat "down under."
Listen to the original ABC report here.