Losing a generation: flying-fox abandonment event a distressing sign of what's to come


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Humane Society International (HSI) is urging governments to deploy emergency support for wildlife carers and prepare for sustained action as thousands of grey-headed flying-fox pups are being abandoned due to stress caused by a lethal combination of habitat clearing, drought, heat, and fire.

"Drought conditions have seen grey-headed flying-foxes suffering through a starvation event across much of their range for months, leaving vulnerable pups and wildlife carers at breaking point,” said Evan Quartermain, HSI's Head of Programs.


"With fires impacting the little food they have left we're now seeing pups still dependant on their mothers dying in their thousands after being abandoned. We're at serious risk of losing a generation of a threatened species we rely on for healthy forests.”


Flying-foxes are socially complex mammals with strong maternal bonds. The abandonment of pups shows mothers are being forced to give up on their young in a desperate attempt to save themselves. This behaviour is disastrous from both conservation and animal welfare perspectives.


The ongoing starvation event first hit the species in South East Queensland and northern NSW several months ago, and the stress grey-headed flying-foxes are under has been seriously exacerbated by fires that have now burned close to 3 million hectares of bushland along the east coast. Now the bats are suffering even at the southern end of their range.


This is a population-wide stress event with no end in sight, and as we brace for a record destroying national heatwave in the coming days an urgent and well-resourced response is needed. Flying-foxes are highly susceptible to soaring temperatures, with those in excess of approximately 42 degrees able to kill tens of thousands of bats in a matter of hours.


"Along with supporting wildlife carers on the front lines, HSI calls on local councils to immediately cease any planned dispersal or colony destruction actions, and for state governments to place a moratorium on licences to shoot flying-foxes for crop protection,” Mr Quartermain continued.


"It's deplorable that permissions to kill a threatened species are still being granted in states including NSW and Queensland at all, let alone when the situation is so desperate. Flying-foxes are up against it in a way they have never been before and the continued harassment and shooting must stop now.”


Humane Society International made the nomination that saw grey-headed flying-foxes listed as a nationally threatened species more than two decades ago and has been largely disappointed with efforts for their recovery and protection since.


"Despite their perilous situation and ecological significance being well known for decades, recovery and conservation actions for grey-headed flying-foxes have been woefully inadequate. This situation has been a long time coming and is a serious test of how we respond to wildlife emergencies as climate change bites with extreme temperatures.


Flying-foxes are extremely important for the future of coastal forests due to their high mobility and preferred food sources. They pollinate over far larger distances than birds or insects and are vital to the reproduction, regeneration and evolution of forest ecosystems that safeguard Australia's biodiversity and are important carbon sinks essential to combatting climate change.

Media contact:  Rhiannon Cunningham, HSI Communications Coordinator - 0406 017 588 or (02) 9973 1728 


HSI concentrates on the preservation of endangered animals and ecosystems and works to ensure quality of life for all animals, both domestic and wild. HSI is the largest animal protection not-for-profit organisation in the world and has been established in Australia since 1994. 

Humane Society International Inc
PO Box 439, AVALON NSW 2107 AUSTRALIA Tel: +61 (2) 9973 1728
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Please support the incredible efforts of wildlife carers.  SCEC is proud to have the following member groups who volunteer tirelessly around the clock to care for our wildlife in all manner of situations...

Bat Rescue Inc.

The aims of Bat Rescue are to: provide education to the general  public, active conservation of bat habitat, promote bats as important part of our ecology and the rehabilitation and release of  bats back to the wild.

Become a bat carer:  https://batrescue.org.au/new/home/be-a-bat-carer.html

Other ways you can help: https://batrescue.org.au/new/home/how-to-help.html

Postal address: PO Box 2660, Nambour West Qld 4560

Phone: (07) 5447 0412

Email: [email protected]


Wildlife Volunteers Association Inc.

WILVOS is a dedicated group of South East Queensland people who devote their time and effort in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of precious Australian native wildlife.

Newsletters: https://wilvos.org.au/newsletter-archive/

Volunteering: https://wilvos.org.au/join-us/

Postal address: PO Box 2555, Nambour West Qld 4560

Phone: (07) 5441 6200

Email: [email protected]


And also check out...


Wildcare Australia

Wildcare Australia Inc. South-east Queensland


Here's a helpful resource for wildlife rescue generally