This photo was taken during a recent rescue of a Flying Fox that could not climb or fly due to starvation and dehydration. Apparently this is becoming ever more common in our area. Flying foxes are affected by habitat loss (as are most other species of native animals) netting over trees and barbed wire all impact Flying Foxes. These problems are exacerbate by the unusually dry conditions affected flowering and fruiting of their usual feed trees. Moisture content on foliage is currently very low, fruit and flowers also lack the normal amount of moisture and this is where bats get their nutrition and hydration. Large areas of the North Coast of NSW as well as South East Queensland are experiencing what appears to be a severe flying-fox starvation and dehydration event.
If you have Flying foxes in your area you can help to support them by leaving chopped fruit out at night. Flying foxes can eat 2cm cubes, they will eat any of the following grapes, apples, pears, melon, plum, fig or mango. A simple feeding system is to place fruit into a peg basket and secure it in a tree. This will allow the bats to hang under the basket and feed. Alternatively fruit can simply be sliced and threaded on cord that is strung up into a tree.
In the long term, planting nectar-giving trees will help to support Flying-Foxes and other native animals. Flying-foxes would much rather eat the blossoms of Eucalypts, Lillipillies, Melaleucas, Banksias, Tea-trees and Native fig trees than cultivated fruit.
If you find a Flying fox in distress do not touch the a bat yourself as it takes training and experience to handle an injured Flying fox. If the animal is on the ground, you could cover it with a cardboard box to restrict its movement, while waiting for an animal rescuer to arrive. An animal hanging low should not be disturbed, and any children and/or pets should be kept away, until the bat is rescued. In all instances when you see a flying-fox in need of help you should immediately contact a wildlife group such as wires – 1300 094 737 (store the number in your phone).
Flying-foxes are very intelligent creatures and play an important role in Australian environments. They are natural pollinators and seed dispersers and are crucial for the survival and regeneration of our native forests. Sadly, the current starvation event appears to be yet another indication of the catastrophic affect of a changing climate on our ecosystems. Please do what you can to plant native trees and plants so that in the future our wildlife will have food available to them.