Grey headed Flying-Fox Information and Health Advice
Grey headed flying-fox.
Photographed by Nick Edards.
The Grey Headed Flying-Fox is the largest of the Australian megabats. Due to a significant decline in numbers, the species is listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Conservation and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth). Grey headed flying-foxes are sociable animals which form colonies and congregate in camps. The grey headed flying-foxes leave the camp at dusk and feed at night on fruit on trees in orchards and backyards nearby when their natural food sources become scarce.
The National Capital Authority's strategy for the Grey Headed Flying-Fox
The National Capital Authority is aware of the grey headed flying-fox colony in Commonwealth Park. The NCA, in partnership with the Australasian Bat Society, undertakes survey counts of the camp throughout the year.
The NCA is monitoring the damage to the trees in Commonwealth Park caused by the camp, however, at this stage the colony will not be relocated due to their vulnerable status. Further, non-lethal control methods such as lights or sound may be both ineffectual and impractical.
Public health message
Several species of bats in Australia are potentially infected with Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV). Grey headed flying-foxes can carry this disease. This virus is related to rabies and can only be transferred to a human through an infected bat’s saliva coming into contact with a mucous membrane or open wound. This means it is possible to contract ABLV by a bite, scratch, or bat saliva entering or touching the eyes, nose or mouth. It is strongly advised that people do not touch any bat without appropriate vaccinations. Sick or injured bats should never be handled.
The Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing recommends that contact with bat faeces or urine be avoided. Although ABL is not passed through urine or faeces, it may contain other micro-organisms that can cause disease in humans.
If bitten or scratched, the wound should be washed thoroughly with soap and water for 5 minutes strictly (do not scrub), and veridical antiseptic applied if available. Eyes, nose or mouths which have come into contact with bat saliva should be flushed thoroughly with water. In all cases of exposure, medical advice should be sought immediately.
What to do?
If you find a trapped, injured or sick bat, DO NOT TOUCH, observe from a safe distance and call ACT Wildlife on 0432 300 033 or the NCA on 02 6271 2888. For after hours, please call the NCA On Call officer on 0448 534 463. Any bat found hanging alone within reach during the day needs care.