Black flying fox colony, Charters Towers Photo: Jon Luly

Black flying fox colony, Charters Towers
Photo: Jon Luly

This Wednesday, Council will vote on the proposed relocation of the spectacled flying-fox colony near the Cairns City Library. Council voted in March to apply for a damage mitigation permit to relocate the colony, and are now considering how this may be done. There is significant local opposition to the proposed relocation for a number of reasons including excessive cost of the relocation, the low chance of success and the high risk of causing harm to this nationally listed protected species.

“Relocating the flying fox colony would be an irresponsible waste of rate-payers’ money. The relocation would be costly and is unlikely to succeed” said Cairns and Far North Environment Centre Coordinator Anna McGuire. “Flying foxes help to keep the rainforest healthy by pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds, and the colony is best left where it is.”

“Our native wildlife is what makes Cairns unique and is what many visitors come here to see” explains local wildlife carer Heather Owen. “The flying foxes harm no one and regularly draw crowds of tourists. There are more cost effective solutions to the issue such as covered walkways which would be cheaper, more reliable and would not diminish the tourism value of the colony.”

As Ms McGuire outlines, there is significant public concern about this issue, “Over 700 people have sent emails to Council over the past week to ask Councillors not to relocate the flying-fox colony. These are just some of the many people who understand the futility of attempting to relocate the colony and appreciate the ecological and economic value of our local flying-fox population.”

“The documents released with the meeting agenda indicate that Council is considering removing the trees around the library to move the colony on. These trees are part of what makes Cairns CDB a beautiful place to be. If the colony moves to another tree in the CBD, will Council then cut that tree down as well? This is not a rational plan of action.”

“Relocation attempts in other areas demonstrate that flying foxes may move to a problematic location, or return to the original location. Very few past relocation attempts have been successful: the flying foxes usually return to their original location and many relocation programs have dragged on for years and become financial nightmares.”

“The Council will not have control over where the flying-foxes move to. An October 2012 Council report identified likely new roost sites which included the Cairns Esplanade, Shields St and directly outside the Shangri-La Hotel.”

“As we understand it, the Novotel is pressuring Council to undertake the proposed relocation. If I were a business owner in Cairns I would be questioning why rate payers’ money should be spent shifting a problem away from one business and most likely to a nearby location which will affect other local businesses.”

The Council report acknowledges a study of past relocations showing that:

  • In all cases, dispersed animals did not abandon the local area.
  • In 16 of the 17 cases, dispersals did not reduce the number of flying foxes in a local area.
  • Dispersed animals did not move far (in 69% of cases the animals only moved less than 600m from the original site). In 92% of cases, new camps were established nearby.
  • In all cases, it was not possible to predict where replacement camps would form.
  • Repeat dispersal actions were generally required (in all cases except where complete vegetation removal took place).
  • The financial costs of all dispersal attempts were high, ranging from tens of thousands of dollars for vegetation removal to hundreds of thousands for active dispersals (e.g. using noise, smoke, etc.).


Wildlife carer Heather Owen:

“Research suggests that relocation of colonies adds further stress to these populations, increasing the susceptibility of individuals to disease. The stress of the relocation can actually increase the possibility of virus circulation and transmission in the bat colonies.”

“If the Mayor and Councillors are concerned about health risks associated with flying foxes, the best long-term solution is to make sure people in the community understand the risks and know how to minimise them. Less than 1% of wild bats carry Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) and there have only been 3 cases of human infection over the past 17 years.  ABLV can only be contracted by handling bats, so the risk can be eliminated by educating people not to pick up or touch bats.”

Media contacts:

Anna McGuire, Coordinator, 0434 955 424 or 4032 1746

Heather Owen, local wildlife carer, 0402 069 444


Posted in