Saturday, 17 January 2009

Flying fox approvals


I gave Judy Horton an update on the flying fox relocation this morning on 2GB. We talked about how they are popular with tourists but gradually causing more and more damage to the plants in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

As I said on air, we still don't have final decisions on our two applications - one to the Australian Government and one to the State Government of NSW. However just this week we were advised by the Australian Government that our proposed flying-fox relocation will be treated as a ‘controlled action’. This was not unexpected, but it means further information and assessment may be required. It’s not known yet whether this will delay the relocation beyond May this year.

We expect a decision from the Department of Environment and Climate Change regarding State approval within the next few weeks.

The question is not whether they are causing irreparable damage to the heritage, scientific and beautiful collections of the Botanic Gardens - they are - but whether our relocation will have a negative impact on the overall flying fox populations.

We have made the case that the relocation in Sydney between 1992 and 1997 was successful and didn't appear to be detrimental to the flying foxes - as I've said before, we stopped discouraging returning flying foxes in 1997/98 because we though a few hundred would be sustainable - unfortunately the numbers grew to the current maximum of 22,000, 10 trees died and another 60 are under threat if the flying foxes remain at this level. In addition, the relocation in Melbourne over five years ago was successful in terms of the botanic gardens and the welfare of the flying foxes.

If we get the approvals, the relocation only goes ahead if the welfare of the flying foxes is assured. We are already working with councils and National Parks to determine which sites have the capacity to hold more flying foxes, and which don't.

Our advice from flying fox biologists will guide the timing of the major relocation (around breeding and birthing). In terms of saving important trees in the botanic gardens, and being able to restore the historic Palm Grove landscape and other garden beds, the sooner we can relocate the flying foxes the better.

If there are delays in the approvals we'll continue with methods we can use under our current permits to protect individual trees, such as the inflatable man (which gives only a minor improvement), and do everything we can to nurse and save the trees under most stress.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you think the relocation in Melbourne was successful then maybe you should look at this site. http://www.austrop.org.au/ghff/home.htm

Tim Entwisle said...

The culling program (the focus of this website) wasn't successful (or relevant to the approach in Sydney) but the subsequent well-planned relocation was.

Jane said...

I'd like to know if any of the plants at the Sydney Botanical Garden where the flying foxes are roosting are endangered?

Tim Entwisle said...

Some of the damaged tree 'species' are endangered, but our reasons for relocating the animals are not because these species will necessarily go extinct if our specimen(s) die. The collection is part of the heritage-listed botanic garden, and the individual trees have various scientific, historic and sometimes conservation values. It's these values we want to protect, while at the same time making sure our relocation doesn't have a significant impact on the endangered flying fox species. This 193-year old botanic gardens is definitely a human construct, but no less valuable because of that. The key thing is to look after the welfare of the flying foxes while we protect the botanic gardens.

Jane said...

What trees are endangered?

Tim Entwisle said...

The palm Pritchardia maideniana is endangered in its native habitat in Hawaii, and the small remaining population there is probably planted anyway (so the species is more likely extinct in the wild). Other palms are rare and probably under threat in their native countries but we don’t always have the data on these.

In regard to trees (not palms) we listed the following as of exceptional value: Toona ciliata, Melaleuca quinquenervia, Flindersia xanthoxyla, Waterhousea floribunda, Agathis moorei, Agathis lanceolata, Agathis macrophylla, Agathis laurifolia, Agathis robusta, Hernandia cordigera, Syzygium francissii, Melaleuca quinquenervia.

Not all of these are under threat in the wild of course but some represent populations that either no longer exist or are extremely small (e.g. the Toona from Parramatta). Some of the Agathis are possibly quite restricted in their native pacific habitats.

As I noted above, it is the value of the whole collection and the mix of conservation/scientific/horticultural/heritage values that are important for the botanic garden and community. The conservation value may, e.g., be as a mature specimen readily accessible for study.

I you need a list of the conservation status of trees in the Palm Grove or nearby areas with bats roosting you could write to the Botanic Gardens and research this more fully. In our collection of 3000 trees there are lots of specimens important for all sorts of reasons and each of course has its own story. But we could chase up some of this information.

d00mg1rl said...

Is the gardens enclosed to try and keep the flying foxes out?

Tim Entwisle said...

No, gardens won't be enclosed. Like in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne we'll have to be ready to use noise again to discourage flying foxes from setting up a camp. This is likely to be easier when just a few come in at first - as happened in Melbourne.

d00mg1rl said...

Where do you expect the Flying Foxes to go, and have you considered enclosing the gardens?