Thousands of bats killed by hot weather in Queensland
Authorities issue health warnings as dead flying foxes litter the ground in ‘unprecedented’ numbers
The Guardian Australia, Jan. 6, 2014
Thousands of bats have died across Queensland after extremely hot weather at the weekend.
On Saturday Dayboro resident Murray Paas found hundreds of dead flying foxes on the ground of his 1.5-hectare property. He filmed the sight and uploaded it to YouTube, describing it as “massive carnage” from the extreme temperatures, which rose above 43C (109F) in Brisbane on Saturday.
Paas told Guardian Australia that he estimated more than 1,000 bats had died in the heat on his property alone.
“[The bats] usually only hang out in the tops of the trees but throughout the day they were getting lower and lower … trying to get as much shelter as they could from the sun,” he said.
However, by the end of the day many of the 10,000-strong colony had perished, falling to the ground or hanging dead from branches.
Paas said Moreton Bay council had still not come around to clean up the dead bats, despite repeated calls and having warned Paas not to touch them himself for fear of infection. Since Guardian Australia’s inquiries the council has said it would be in Dayboro on Monday afternoon.
Paas said he got through to the council on Sunday morning but the only action taken had been the delivery of five wheelie bins and a promise that someone would return soon to fill them.
“They specifically pleaded with me not to touch a bat so I don’t risk getting infected,” he said, adding that he felt there was a safety risk in leaving the bats while members of the public walked through the commercial property.
Australian bat lyssavirus can be transmitted from bats to humans and can cause paralysis or death. Some bats are also known to carry the Hendra virus.
“The smell is already getting overwhelming,” said Paas.
“Even if they did start today I don’t know how they would get them out of the 20-metre trees hanging over creeks. It’s a massive operation and I still haven’t seen one moved.”
Paas has only lived on the property for about three months and said the bat colony was a part of living in the area.
“It is ridiculous but it’s one of those things you put up with for the beautiful spot,” he said. “I don’t necessarily like the bats, but I don’t like seeing them dead.”
The number of flying fox deaths is “unprecedented”, a spokesman for the Moreton Bay regional council told Guardian Australia.
“Council has engaged contractors to help with the clean-up and disposal of deceased flying foxes, which is now under way at Burpengary and later today in Dayboro,” he said.
“Council advises residents to avoid coming into physical contact with heat-stressed, injured or deceased flying foxes. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland recommends care be taken when removing dead flying foxes by using a shovel and wearing thick gloves to reduce the risk of scratches and the potential transmission of Australian bat lyssavirus.”
Independent animal carers and researchers have been to the Dayboro property to take orphaned bats away.
An estimated 3,000 bats also died in Ipswich and Redbank.
Gavin Miles from rescue service Bats QLD spoke to Guardian Australia from Woodford, where he was helping in the aftermath of thousands of deaths, also blamed on the heat. The colony of bats in the area ranges from 5,000 to 20,000. Miles estimated his team had rescued about 250 animals.
“There are still bodies everywhere and probably a couple of thousand dead animals,” said Miles, adding he’d not seen anything like it in the eight years he’d worked as a rescuer. He said Woodford residents had told him it reached 48C at the weekend.
As a precaution against contracting the lyssavirus, Miles and his co-workers have been vaccinated in accordance with Queensland law.
The Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection were both contacted for comment.