Grey-headed Flying-foxes Face Imminent Dispersal from Victoria's Colac Botanic Gardens - Call for Letters/Lobbying Support

Grey-headed flying foxes face imminent dispersal from Victoria's Colac Botanic Gardens - call for letters/lobbying support

28 August 2019x

Dear Friends,

As some of you may be aware the Colac Otway Shire (COS) is proceeding, against our strong protestations, with its plan to disperse Grey-headed flying foxes from its Colac Botanic Gardens (CBG) and to permanently exclude them from roosting in the CBG. Frank Castles the COS Operations Manager is coordinating the eviction and has informed me that the bats will be kept out of the CBG with water sprayers, noise and other means of aversion.

The Shire has not acted in good faith and has ignored the input of Wildlife Victoria, FOBB and Dr Rodney Van der Rae, who opposed “relocation” as impractical and detrimental to the flying foxes. They engaged us so as to establish a façade of “community consultation”.  Whatever spin they might apply there is simply no other suitable alternative roosting habitat within many kilometres of the CBG. More than 1000 females will be arriving there in Sept/ October to give birth and raise their young. They must be left alone and without harassment.  

The shire’s plans can be found at:

Friends of Bats & Bushcare Inc has written, requesting urgent support, to MLC for Western Victoria MP Andy Meddick (see letter below) and to

Ms Colleen White

Regional director

Barwon South West  DELWP -  Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

30-38 Little Malop Street GEELONG  VIC  322

Other FOBBs and Colac supporters such as Red Barn Farm have written to the Colac Shire Mayor and to operations manager Frank Castles.

More support has come from City of Yarra Councillor Bridgid O’Brien who has written to the Colac Otway Shire objecting to the dispersal of the Grey-headed flying foxes from the CBG.

Dear bat friends we must keep the pressure up.  Please see my letter below, and media release, for an overview of our objections.

We are asking for others to write / phone / lobby in defence of our flying foxes.

Colac Otway Shire

PO Box 283, Colac, Victoria 3250

Operations Manager – Flying fox Relocation:  mob.0418 523 969

Colac Otway Shire:

CEO Peter Brown

Parks & Gardens Tony McGann

Mayor Jason Schram

Phone: (03) 5232 9405 
 0428 326 410 

Deputy Mayor Joe McCracken

Phone: (03) 5232 9409
Mobile: 0427 749 918

Flying fox Dispersal permit issued by Colac Delwp :

Any letters of support for our persecuted friends and opposition to their eviction from the CBG would be appreciated. The Colac bats are our bats and they are not for mistreatment!

Best Regards

Lawrence Pope

Coordinator : Victorian Advocates for Animals

President : FOBB – Friends of Bats and Bushcare Inc.

PO Box 377 North Carlton

Victoria 3054


Andy Meddick MP -  MLA Western Victoria

Overview of POCTA Concerns Related to Proposed Dispersal of Federally (EPBC) and State (FFG, Wildlife Act 1975) Listed Grey-headed flying foxes (EPBC)

Re. Lawrence Pope (president FOBB), Megan Davidson (CEO wildlife Vic)

Request meeting with Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes


Dear Sir

The membership of the Friends of Bats & Bushcare Inc. has asked me to make its concerns known to you regarding the welfare of the colony of Grey-headed flying foxes roosting in the Colac Botanic Gardens and plans for their permanent removal by the Colac Otway Shire.

I have been advised by Frank Castles, Operations Manager of Colac Otway Shire that the Shire / Colac Botanic Gardens has obtained permission to disperse its small winter colony of Grey-headed flying foxes (approx. 30 ffs) and that it intends to disperse (using aversion noise and water sprays) any flying foxes that attempt to roost in the CBG in future including females (more than 1000) that will begin to arrive shortly to give birth (Sept/Oct) to their single pup. NB. The pups cannot fly and are dependent on their nursing mothers for up to five months.

The Colac Botanic Gardens (CGB) is 16 hectares, heavily treed, and plays a direct physical role in the preservation of Grey-headed flying fox (aka “the bats”) a keystone pollinating species of over 100 species of native trees. These bats carry more viable pollen greater distances than any other vertebrate species. The Grey-headed flying fox national population is down by over 95% of its 1900 levels – from around 10-15 million to around 300,000 animals today and, probably, falling. Number of flying foxes in specific camps fluctuate from year-to-year. National the species trends south and west in summer and then east the north in winter. The national range of the Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) is now approximately Brisbane to Adelaide. It was once found as far north as Cape York.   

Last summer while other Victorian and South Australian colonies recorded large heatwave die-offs of flying foxes (Bairnsdale 2000, Maffra 1500, Yarra Bend 300 pups and Adelaide 4000 dead) Colac Botanic Gardens had no fatalities despite its summer population of around 5000 animals. This is because it provides deep shade and cool air from nearby Lake Colac. The absence of any comparable roosting habitat (water and deep shade) within many kilometres of the CBG makes dispersal or harassment of bats attempting to roost highly questionable from an ethical standpoint. If females begin to stress-abort their pups (a not uncommon stress phenomena) then this will be an exceptionally bad outcome for them, conservation, and Victoria as a civilised community. NB. Geelong, Warrnambool and Bendigo all manage the same species of flying fox camps in-situ, in Parks and Gardens, without resorting to attempts at eviction.

Flying foxes (thousands) will attempt to re-occupy the Colac Botanic Gardens from September to February. Any dispersal (noise, sprayers) from the CBG is certain to see distressed flying foxes roosting (i.e. sleeping/socialising during the day) in other, sub-optimal, local areas e.g. backyards, schools, street trees etc. They must land, rest, sleep and feed their young. Newborn pups will definitely be lost. If the bats are “dispersed” out of the Gardens and trees along the nearby creek or elsewhere then they will also die, en-mass, of heatstroke over the summer period. Another very poor outcome for the township of Colac and for all.  I am familiar with the terrain and areas of the CBG and Colac. With replanting efforts around Lake Colac alternative flying fox roost sites should be available with a few decades but they are not there at present. I have made these known to the Colac Otway Shire. NB. The Grey headed flying fox colony enjoys increasing public support and earlier in the year I spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at the nearby Red Rock Theatre regarding the same.

I am aware that parallels have been drawn between the situation in the CBG and that of the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens in 2001. They are in no wise alike. Melbourne boasted over a dozen alternative, government sanctioned, roosting sites within six kilometres of the RBG. The bats chose Yarra Bend Park (4ks) on the Yarra River, on a bend with an with a high escarpment and numerous mature river red-gums. A well-watered golf course abuts. They have roosted there since August 2003 with the annual population varying from around 2000 in winter to around 35,000 in summer.

The intention of the Colac Otway Shire’s management has been made clear over a long period of time. It wants the bats gone. It does not accept that indigenous species have a right to exist among us and that we have a historical and ethical responsibility to do our utmost to accommodate or help them. The Colac Otway Shire focusses on one or two trees in the Gardens especially its Chinese Pagoda tree that roosting flying foxes are said to impact upon. We, as bat conservationists, are focused on the regeneration and genetic diversity of entire native forests along the East and South Australia that flying foxes pollinate and seed disperse – surely two million years of ecological work counts as Australian Heritage? We are looking for new relationship. If as a community we are serious about Victorian conservation and animal welfare then we need to make room for indigenous Australian species particularly those in decline. This is not 1950 and we must, at last, do our bit.

I propose a compromise position :

1. The Colac DELWP ATCW permit to disperse the bats be rescinded.

2. While sprayers may be deployed at the Pagoda Heritage Tree in the CBG that the remainder of the gardens be available to roosting Grey-headed flying foxes as they give birth and nurse their young.

3. That intensive efforts to re-forest around the Western area of  Lake Colac are undertaken.

4. Public education including contemporary interpretive signage be made available.

5. That during extreme heat that the central fountain remain on and cooling lawn sprays are used to help the bats survive.

NB. Questions remain over the legal status of any attempt to “disperse” and “re-locate” this Grey-headed flying fox colony and to prevent bats from roosting in the CBG over the Summer of 2019-2020.

An example of the Colac Otway Shire’s tendentious “feedback” designed to elicit negative responses:

It is disappointing that we find it necessary to fight battles to protect listed native species against regressive elements in our community.

Thank you.

Best Regards

Lawrence Pope

Coordinator : Victorian Advocates for Animals

President : FOBB – Friends of Bats and Bushcare Inc.

(20 years of bat advocacy and weekly direct work with Melbourne’s flying fox colony at Yarra Bend Park).

PO Box 377 North Carlton

Victoria 3054

ph. 0416 228 696

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