The grey-headed flying-fox is the largest of the Australian fruit bats. 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.

The National Capital Authority's strategy for 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 (ABL). Grey-headed flying-foxes can carry this disease. This virus is related to rabies and can be contracted by humans through bites or scratches which pass through saliva from the infected bat. Alternatively, bat saliva entering or touching the eyes, nose or throat can potentially transmit the virus. Therefore, all contact with bats should be avoided. Sick or injured bats should not 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, 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, contact the RSPCA on 6287 8113 or the after hours wildlife line on 0413 495 031.