Heat expected to affect flying foxes

News release
19 November 2019

Grey-headed Flying-fox - Craig Greer

Photo: Grey-headed Flying-fox in the heat, Craig Greer.

Hot weather predicted for tomorrow (Wednesday 20 November) is likely to impact on the grey-headed flying fox colony in Botanic Park.

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges ecologist, Jason van Weenen, says there has been a clear trend, as the colony has grown over recent years, of increasing numbers of young grey-headed flying foxes succumbing to heat stress.

“Earlier this year, during the January heatwave temperatures reached 46C which resulted in the deaths of around 3000 bats from the colony, which now numbers around 20,000 bats,” Mr van Weenen said.

“And with temperatures predicted to hit 42C on Wednesday it’s quite possible we’ll see further casualties, and if very hot conditions persist, we could expect significant numbers of pups die.”

The Department for Health and Wellbeing’s Executive Director of Health Protection and Licensing Services,  Dr Chris Lease, said any contact with a bat can be very dangerous and the animals must only be handled by appropriately trained and vaccinated bat handlers.

“Bats can carry a range of serious diseases that can be transmitted to humans if they are bitten or scratched by an infected bat, including Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV), which causes rabies,” Dr Lease said.

“While less than one per cent of Australian bats carry ABLV and no human cases have been recorded in South Australia, there have been three reported cases of rabies from ABLV in Australia since 1996, all of which were fatal. The last case involved a child and occurred in Queensland in 2013.

“This year there have been 12 bat exposures in South Australia where precautionary treatment with rabies vaccine was required, and nine of these needed rabies immunoglobulin as well.

“Like most wild animals, healthy bats are naturally shy and will not approach humans or allow themselves to be handled. However, during summer it’s more common to see bats, particularly young flying foxes, on the ground as they’re sensitive to the heat, resulting in some bats falling from trees.”

If you see a large or small bat on the ground - living or dead - do not touch it under any circumstances. Instead contact the Fauna Rescue’s 24-hour bat helpline on 0475 132 093.


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