Giant bats to be evicted from their Sydney roost

Flying foxes are damaging rare trees at Botanic Gardens

A A A

Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, set in a picturesque spot overlooking the harbour, are home to some of Australia's oldest and rarest trees – and also to a large colony of screeching, squabbling giant bats.

The grey-headed flying foxes weigh up to 9lb and have a 3ft wingspan. Locals and tourists adore them. But their numbers have swollen to 22,000, and they are destroying some of the gardens' most valuable trees. Park authorities say they have to go. The question is: how to evict them?

Culling is not an option because, apart from the likely public outcry, the flying foxes are a vulnerable species. Numerous tactics have been used to persuade them to leave, including shining strobe lights in their faces, discharging bad odours in their vicinity, blasting them with water sprinklers and smearing their favourite trees with python dung.

However, the only effective deterrent appears to be noise, so a major aural assault is being planned. In the coming weeks, pending government approval, the bats will be bombarded with unpleasant sounds – chainsaws whirring, starter guns being fired, dustbin lids banged together – from loudspeakers that will travel through Palm Grove, their main roosting area, on golf buggies.

It may seem unkind, but staff say they have no choice. Thirteen of their oldest trees, including some rare kauri pines from the 1850s, have died in the past decade, and another 60 are on the critical list. Tim Entwhistle, executive director of the Botanic Gardens Trust, said: "When you've got many thousands of flying foxes shuffling around, the trees get stripped of all their shoots and leaves. They also like to be high up, so they choose the tallest trees, which are also the oldest."

The hope is that the flying foxes, one of the world's largest bat species, will join another colony in northern Sydney. But conservationists are alarmed by the eviction plan, pointing out that, overall, the species' numbers have dropped dramatically thanks to the abolition of their coastal habitats through large-scale land clearing. According to Kerryn Parry-Jones, a bat expert at the University of Sydney, the population is halving every seven years, and the species could be wiped out within a century.

At the gardens, they plan to carry out the noise offensive when the bats are neither breeding nor caring for young. Initially, the loudspeakers will play taped sounds for 10 minutes on the hour. "It will be like being in a bad hotel, and if the bats can't get a decent sleep, they'll move on," Mr Entwhistle said.

The bats hang upside-down during the day, and cruise around at night, eating fruit and flowers. They have been roosting in the Botanic Gardens for years, and their population is now at record heights. It is not uncommon to find 500 of the highly sociable creatures in one tree.

But the bats may not go quietly. After all, they occupy some of the best real estate in Sydney. And like most Sydneysiders, they love their water views.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Coordinator

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Production Coordinator is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opening has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn