High Wire Tragedy


Relaxing on her back deck just after sunset Tammy could hear an odd slightly more shrill and urgent sound than a ‘chirp chirp’, seeming to come from the sky. It was Wednesday the 3rd November 2021.

Jill seemed to be taking a long time to get to the office. Finally a phone call, Jill had diverted to a rescue. It was now Thursday the 4th.

Bounce, Sue’s recently rescued flying-fox pup and now healthily devouring bottle fed milk every 4 hours, was settling after bottle one.

Now early morning Tammy located a small form hanging from a wire five storeys above the ground.

Most electrical wires in greater Sydney run annoyingly beside and above footpaths throughout suburbia. However not high enough to avoid trees intelligently planted by local Councils directly under the wires. Luckily an entire industry has evolved ensuring the trees are hacked into distorted sad shapes, crippled versions of what they are trying to be. These wires are Ausgrid.

Tammy however can see from her back deck the towering steel structures, standing legs apart, arms outstretched supporting numerous wires, tower after tower endlessly ploughing their way through all landscapes in their path. These wires are Transgrid.

Jill and Sue volunteer for Sydney Wildlife. Jill founder of FFS specialises in rescue and preservation of Flying Foxes.

Tammy deduced her discovery was a Flying Fox most probably a juvenile.

Alerted, Jill collected Sue, they found their way to where Tammy was holding the fort.

They arrived at noon Thursday.

Meanwhile the juvenile hanging alone but quite safely on the highest wire could see the action below and responded to the calls of comfort from the hopeful rescue team.

The Flying Fox was christened Highwire.

Standard procedure when dealing with Ausgrid is to call and arrange for a ‘cherry picker’ type machine, to assist the volunteers to rescue the Flying Fox tangled, most often already dead as a result of electrocution, but also often carrying a young pup, which has survived, protected by its mothers thick fur.

Of course Flying Foxes are attracted to the blossom of the Council planted trees, strategically planted and growing into the wires, which Ausgrid could change to aerial bundled cable instead, therefore preventing the electrocution of thousands of birds, possums and flying-foxes.

Assuming an equal procedure is in place with Transgrid, Jill and Sue made the call to emergency.

It seems mother Flying Foxes, transporting their babies under their wing on their nightly hunt for blossom and nectar, dutifully carrying out their vital seed dispersal program, become tired and need to rest.

Juveniles, it seems can become detached from their mother and not yet able to fly, get stuck.

Tammy had to go to work, although by now late.

The man at Transgrid finally understood the issue and said he would arrange for an inspection as soon as possible. Thursday 1.00 pm.

Jill phoned her office advising the rescue was ongoing. Thursday 3.00 pm.

The afternoon was warm, with a slight breeze. Highwire although now hungry and confused, was hanging on.

Sue had to get back to Bounce.

Tammy now in charge, Jill left for the hour drive home, arriving at 7.00 pm.

Tammy now concerned with the weather changing to squalling rain, phoned Jill.

Highwire was still calling although weaker.

Jill again called Transgrid emergency. Transgrid advised the 'rescue' was still being considered by management and that an inspector would visit the site next morning a 7.00 am. Friday 5th.

A restless night, a 5 am alarm, motorway to the site, Jill met with Tammy. They were under the wire staring into the sky, wishing Highwire had survived a third day alone, hungry and due to the heavy rain, drenched. It was 6.45 am.

No one from Transgrid arrived at the site. It was now 8 am.

Tammy reluctantly left for work.

Once rescued, juvenile Flying Foxes need instant care; subcutaneous fluids for hydration, warmth, special formula milk and hourly monitoring.

A utility arrived bearing signage, Transgrid.  It was now 10 am.

Keith is an inspector and has worked at Transgrid for many years. Where he lives he has often marvelled at the fly past of Flying Foxes heading out at sunset.

Keith produced binoculars. It was difficult to confirm whether Highwire was still alive. There seemed to be movement, was the wing blowing in the wind? No sound could be heard.

Jill could not imagine a cherry picker able to reach five stories.

Yes we can! Advised Keith. Why doesn’t it fly away.

Jill took some time to explain.

Keith was concerned that due to the rain, the ground was now too soft to support the stabilisers of their machine, so the rescue could not be made.

Tammy phoned at 7.00 am Saturday 6th. Highwire had fallen to the ground during the night and was dead.

We could have saved Highwire yesterday!

If you find this upsetting, as we do - feel free to voice your opinion to the people at Transgrid: CLICK HERE

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