Flying Foxes to Stay Another Year

This is a copy of the Media Release we sent out today:

The Botanic Gardens Trust has decided to postpone its plans to relocate the flying-fox camp which is causing extensive damage to the historical trees at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.

Earlier this year the Trust received approval from the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change for its plan to use noise disturbance to relocate Grey-headed Flying-foxes from the heritage-listed Royal Botanic Gardens to other camps in the Sydney area.

The noise disturbance technique has been employed successfully in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne to move a similar-sized camp, and in the Sydney Gardens in the 1990s to reduce numbers.

Due to ongoing and incomplete discussions with the Commonwealth about the proposal, the Botanic Gardens Trust has resolved to suspend its proposed relocation for 2009.

Botanic Gardens Trust Executive Director, Dr Tim Entwisle, said that the decision to delay the relocation is disappointing but necessary. “We have always been clear about the need to disturb the camp only when it is safe for the flying-foxes.“

“Although we expect the relocation to occur relatively quickly, we need to allow extra time in case they settle in an unsuitable area. Our window of opportunity is May to July, after breeding and before the animals are carrying their young.”

Dr Entwisle says “Eighteen trees have been lost so far, but good rainfall and excellent tree care has meant that some of the most severely damaged trees have been nursed through another year.

“While relocation in 2009 would give us the best opportunity to save the remaining trees, I’m hopeful we can hold onto the most scientifically and culturally important specimens for another 12 months.”

The extra year gives the Trust time for further research and monitoring of camps in the Sydney area in preparation for the planned relocation.

Flying-foxes began settling in the Palm Grove in 1989 – nearly 70 years after they had been last reported in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Over the last two decades the camp has grown in size from a few hundred to a peak of 22,000 during summer months, resulting in extensive damage to a landscape of great historical, scientific and cultural value.

Dr Entwisle said, “The Trust is committed to safeguarding the precious heritage of the Royal Botanic Gardens, and to the relocation of the flying-foxes in accordance with state and federal requirements so there are no long-term adverse impacts on this vulnerable species.”