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Southern Queensland Flying-fox Education Kit Activity 9.1A. Flying-foxes and their environment. Section 1: Our local flying-foxes Section 2: Forest rely on foxes that fly Section 3: Natural threats Section 4: Man-made threats. SECTION 1: Our local flying-foxes. Mega-bats in Australia.

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Flying-foxes and their environment

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Flying foxes and their environment l.jpg

Southern QueenslandFlying-fox Education Kit

Activity 9.1A

Flying-foxes and their environment

Section 1: Our local flying-foxes

Section 2: Forest rely on foxes that fly

Section 3: Natural threats

Section 4: Man-made threats

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SECTION 1: Our local flying-foxes

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Mega-bats in Australia

  • “Mega-bats” describes a family of bats that are frugivorous/nectarivorous.

  • There are nine different species of mega-bat living in mainland Australia.

  • Five of these can be found in southern Queensland.

  • Three of these mega-bats are flying-foxes.

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Black flying fox (Pteropusalecto)

This is the largest of the Australian flying-foxes. They are common throughout northern coastal region. They are generally black all over and may have with a reddish collar.

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Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropuspoliocephalus)

This species is classified as a vulnerable species across Australia. Its reddish orange collar, light grey head and fur down its legs distinguishes it from other flying foxes.

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Little red flying foxes (Pteropusscaptulatus)

These smaller flying foxes clump together in large groups when roosting. They are a nomadic species that can be found across most of Australia.

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End of Section 1



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SECTION 2: Forests rely on foxes that fly

The seeds of many species of rainforest tree will only germinate if moved some distance from the parent tree. Due to their ability to carry larger fruit and move it over considerable distances, flying-foxes are responsible for maintaining genetic diversity amongst remnant patches of rainforest.

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Flying-fox habitat

  • Flying-foxes roost in trees in large groups. These groups are called camps or colonies.

  • Camps can be found in remote patches of forest.

  • More commonly camps are located in small patches or bush land amongst a sea of urban development.

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Flying-fox habitat

  • Flying-foxes feed on over 100 different species of native trees and shrubs.

  • They will travel great distances to find food – usually within a 20 km radius. Commutes of over 400 km have been recorded.

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Seed dispersal and pollination

  • Seeds are dispersed in three ways:

    • fruit is dropped during flight,

    • large seeds are dropped on-site or away from the parent tree, and

    • small seeds are excreted elsewhere.

  • Pollen is collected on the fur of flying-foxes while they feed on the nectar of flowers.

  • Through their travels, flying foxes can pollinate flowers many kilometres apart.

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End of Section 2



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SECTION 3: Natural threats

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  • Significant changes in the natural world can cause stress on a species.

    • Long term decline in numbers (lack of food).

    • Mass deaths from heat stress over increasingly hotter summers.

  • Stressed flying-foxes can become sick and we see an increase occurrence of diseases like Hendra virus.

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Climate change

  • Scientists agree that our climate is changing causing:

    • hotter summers,

    • increased frequency of major storm events, and

    • changes in flowering patterns.

  • Species are moving into new territories and placing pressure on existing populations.

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  • Drought impacts the flowering and fruiting patterns of native trees.

  • Babies can fall victim to heat stress.

  • Keeping hydrated is important for survival.

  • When the drought breaks, camps can swell beyond normal capacity in areas where trees are flowering.

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  • Bushfires can wipe-out large tracts of natural food sources for up to 12-24 months.

  • Flying-foxes may have to move to new camps or supplement their diet with backyard fruit.

  • Orchards should be netted correctly to protect the fruit from both flying-foxes and birds.

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  • Extreme flooding can damage roosting trees.

  • Trees make use of rain and may flower and fruit at different times, or have extended flowering times.

  • Different flowering and fruiting will change population dynamics in flying-fox camps as they follow the food.

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  • Cyclones can destroy roosting trees and food sources.

  • Flying-foxes need to move away from the affected zone putting pressure on other camps and competition for food.

  • Human interactions become tense.

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Reduce the stress

  • We can be more sustainable to reduce our contribution to climate change.

  • We can learn more about the importance of flying- foxes to our forests.

  • We can help others learn more about flying-foxes and how we can live together.

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End of Section 3



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SECTION 4: Man-made threats

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  • When we get stressed we become sick, tired and grumpy.

  • When flying-foxes get stressed they too get sick, tired and they may die as a result.

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  • Loss of roost habitat and our affinity to living near natural areas, has lead to flying-foxes living closer to humans.

  • This causes stress to both the flying-foxes and those living near them.

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Fruit trees

  • When there is a lack of native food, flying-foxes will revert to backyard fruit trees and orchards.

  • Incorrectly netted fruit trees can cause many inhumane deaths to both flying-foxes and birds.

  • Nets need to be pulled tight over a frame. This methods protects both the flying-foxes and the fruit.

Incorrect netting

Correct netting

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Flying-fox caught in a Cocos Palm. His toes were trapped in the narrowing vertical groove. Two toes had to be amputated.

(Dave Pinson)

Pest trees

  • Exotic trees like the Cocos/Queen Palm cause a lot of damage to flying-foxes.

    • They get trapped and die.

    • The large, fibrous seeds can damage teeth and the whole mouth.

  • Seeds are spread and once nice garden species turn into invasive bushland weeds.

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Powerlines and Electrocution

  • Flying-foxes often think that electrical wires are a thin branch. Many species fall victim to touching the two wires.

  • This can cause electrical shorts and they have to be removed.

  • An injured or orphaned bat can attract others to the same fate.

Photo: Toby Hudson

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Barbed wire

  • Flying-foxes don’t always see barbed wire at night and get caught.

  • Their fine wing membrane gets ripped on the barbs and their feet get caught.

  • They cause more damage to themselves while trying to get free.

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Reduce the stress

  • We can reduce the man-made impacts on flying-foxes.

  • We can learn more about the importance of flying-foxes to our forests.

  • We can help others learn more about flying-foxes and how we can live together.

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End of Section 4


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