Bats cull could make the problem worse, say wildlife groups
AN estimated 18,000 flying foxes are calling CBD trees their home, and while some support renewed calls for culling, wildlife groups say it could create an increase of infected bats.
Despite the recent death of an eight-year-old Cairns boy after contracting Australian bat lyssavirus at the Whitsundays and a Tableland property going into lockdown after a horse died from Hendra virus, health and wildlife agencies say catching a bat-borne disease is rare.
Cairns and Far North Environment Centre spokeswoman Anna McGuire said control measures would stress bat populations, leading to an increase of diseases susceptibility.
"Flying fox culls are not a real solution to this problem, as insectivorous bats also carry Australian bat lyssavirus," she said.
"Culling and relocation of colonies will add further stress to these populations, increasing the susceptibility of individuals to disease. When wildlife populations are stressed in this way, it can result in more virus circulation."
Ms McGuire said less than 1 per cent of wild bats and flying foxes carried lyssavirus and people should avoid handling the animals.
Cairns Regional Council Mayor Bob Manning wants to see problem bats moved on and is working with mayors in Toowoomba, Yeppoon and Charters Towers to bring his case to the State Government.
"I've got pretty firm thoughts on this (and) the CBD is not an appropriate habitat for a bat," he said.
The colony along Abbott and Aplin streets, which has grown from an estimated 200 flying foxes in 2003 to at about 18,000 today, is Cr Manning's main concern.
"What happens when it gets to 30,000 to 35,000?" he said.
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection wildlife director Rebecca Williams said landowners and local authorities could apply for a permit to manage bats.
"Flying fox bites are rare, but anyone who receives a bite or scratch from a flying fox should seek medical advice."
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