Should landowners be allowed to cull bats without permits?
Queensland has four species of large fruit bats (‘flying foxes’), which fly from their roosts in spectacular fashion at dusk to feed on fruits and nectar, dispersing seeds and pollens of native trees, shrubs and vines while doing so.
Unfortunately they have also developed a taste for some cultivated fruits, which can affect the livelihood of some orchardists. This year, ironically on threatened species days (since two of the species are considered vulnerable) new legislation was passed in Queensland allowing the culling of bats by shooting, but only as a last resort and with permits that must be sought from the state government.
Whether this is an efficient solution and whether conservation or animal welfare issues can be adequately monitored and controlled is still very much open to debate
There has also been much talk in the press about the Hendra virus, which is present in bats but can only be transmitted to humans by infected horses (which appear to be able to contract it from bats although the mechanism still seems uncertain). So far there have been four human deaths from this virus, but many of the public seem unaware that you cannot contract it directly from the bats, nor that you cannot contract the other potentially lethal virus carried by bats, Lyssa virus, unless scratched or bitten by a bat, which is unlikely to happen unless you are deliberately handling them. So far there have been two human deaths from this.
An amendment soon to be presented to parliament goes further than the original act, and would allow any landowner to cull bats and even destroy whole roosts if the landowner “reasonably believes” this is necessary to remove the risk to local health.
Wildlife Tourism Australia’s response to this amendment is here:
Submissions to the Queensland government have officially closed, although you could still express your opinion to the environment minister. You can also have your say via the following survey: