How to Avoid Captive Flying-Foxes Contracting Botulism From Blowfly Eggs

Signs of botulism in flying-foxes were a protruding tongue, reduced ability to swallow and weakness progressing to loss of ability to perch and respiratory difficulty. At the time (March 2019) high blowfly numbers were present at a release aviary in Northern NSW. The blowflies were attracted to the chopped fruit, plus protein supplement, which the flying-foxes were being fed. It is suspected that blowfly egg masses laid on the fruit were the source of the botulism toxin.

It is understood that this is the first time that botulism has been documented in flying-foxes. Botulism C toxin was positive in samples from the gastrointestinal tract of several of the animals that were tested. Most of the flying-foxes died or were euthanised and a few animals recovered.

To avoid contamination of food from blowfly eggs, the chopped fruit and supplement ideally should be put out at dusk, particularly in warm weather, and the uneaten fruit removed from the aviary early the following morning to avoid attracting large numbers of blowflies.
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Nsw Animal Health Surveillance

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