Surge in bat rescues from fruit tree nets

ORPHANED: These three-week-old flying foxes were orphaned when their mothers died after becoming entangled in fruit tree netting. They are now being cared for by the Wildlife Hospital at RSPCA Wacol.
ORPHANED: These three-week-old flying foxes were orphaned when their mothers died after becoming entangled in fruit tree netting. They are now being cared for by the Wildlife Hospital at RSPCA Wacol. David Nielsen

MORE than 70 flying foxes in the region have been rescued after becoming entangled in netting used to protect fruit trees from insects during the past two weeks.

RSPCA Queensland says many more have perished, subject to a slow painful death together with hundreds of baby bats, gliders, birds, lizards and other native animals. RSPCA wildlife veterinarian Bonny Cumming said it was important people understood the tragic toll the wrong type of netting could inflict on native wildlife.

"Most people are prepared to do the right thing if the situation is explained to them," Dr Cumming said. Hungry animals were easily caught in common bird netting and often became entangled without being able to free themselves, she said.

While struggling to escape, the nets cut into their flesh and the animal eventually dies in pain.

Some people think getting animals caught in nets meant the nets were doing their job - but wildlife rehabilitation and rescue co-ordinator Annette Colling said the nets were there to keep the animals from eating the fruit, not to trap them.

"Every year thousands of bats suffer cruel and preventable deaths as a result of fruit tree netting entanglement," Ms Colling said. "The netting inflicts horrific woundsMany need to be euthanised because their injuries are so severe."

Ms Colling said bats were feeling the pressure of habitat loss as population increased and development removed native bushland.

"Because of a low reproductive rate, flying-foxes are vulnerable to population declines," she said. "Frequent food shortages, a greater prevalence of unsafe netting and barbed wire fences have increased the number of flying foxes requiring rescue."

Two species of bats in Queensland were listed as "vulnerable to extinction" - the spectacled flying fox and the grey-headed flying fox. High stress levels in flying-foxes was likely to increase spill over of Hendra virus. There are wildlife friendly nets available to protect fruit, which do not harm the animals

Topics:  flying foxes, fruit trees, rspca queensland



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