Letter to the Editor-Friday, April 11: We’re getting battier
I WOULD like to be the first to congratulate Fred Perring on his newfound career as a bat counter (letters March 31). His vast experience would certainly assist the small band of dedicated volunteers who regularly count the local flying-fox populations to assist in their management and conservation.
Who knows, Fred's methodology may in fact be superior to that presently used. I am not sure whose estimate Fred was referring to, but the number of flying-foxes on Susan Island fluctuates greatly and an estimate of 10,000 may have been accurate at the time referred to.
The colony can have as little as a few hundred bats in the winter and upwards of 200-300,000 in the peak of summer when the little red flying-foxes join the colony. The number could even reach 500,000 but the two to three million estimated by former local member, Bill Weilley, was a little high. Fred states that many hundreds were flying south to the orchards of the Orara.
These orchards were set up some years back as a tax dodge and many have been bulldozed to the ground as they were unviable. I doubt whether many of the remaining ones are very productive.
The sad part is that large areas of native vegetation were destroyed in the establishment of the orchards and this vegetation (mostly eucalypts and corymbias) would have provided an abundant food source for the flying-foxes.
Rather than relying on fruit, as Fred suggests, the thousands of bats that fly out from Susan Island nightly are heading for the current food sources, in the form of nectar and pollen of the forest trees that Fred is so passionate about.
The bats play a vital role in the cross-pollination of the hardwood forests which is a basis for the local timber industry. The consumption of fruit is more limited and orchards are often raided in years when natural food is scarce.
Dr Greg. P. Clancy
Ecologist and Birding-wildlife Guide