Shooting in Orchards

Unfortunately many flying-foxes are shot to keep them from fruit trees. To encourage orchardists to install exclusion netting and to phase out shooting of flying-foxes, a subsidy or funding program was set up by the NSW Rural Assistance Authority, on behalf of the NSW Environmental Trust & the Office of Environment & Heritage, to assist orchardists in NSW whose operations would be affected by the prohibition of licensed shooting of flying-foxes as a crop protection measure.

In March 2016, the Flying-fox Netting Subsidy was fully committed and no further applications for the scheme were accepted.

Unfortunately both Queensland and NSW State Governments continue to issue permits to fruit growers to shoot flying-foxes even though appropriate netting can be purchased for commercial orchards, and should be used in stead of shooting our declining, precious wildlife.

Tragically shooting flying-foxes is not only ineffective, but raises many cruelty and animal welfare issues. Many animals, who are shot, are only wounded and die slowly over days from infection and dehydration. Furthermore, if the female is carrying a baby, or has young waiting for her at the flying-fox colony, her baby will also die slowly.

There is a requirement in Australian laws for humaneness in crop protection and in all actions involving protected wildlife. Why is this legal requirement not been observed?

It is important to remember that many of Australia's native forests and rainforests have been decimated by humans over the last 200 years and is the reason that flying-foxes seek out orchard fruit. Obviously the solution is to stop clearing Australian native forests and plant more rainforest trees.

In the meantime fixed netting is available and is an effective solution for crop protection. Farmers, who claim not to be able to afford exclusion netting, even at very low interest rates, should not be in the fruit growing business. Even if a quota was imposed by the government on the numbers of flying-foxes that growers are allowed to kill, it is impossible to enforce these limits. Therefore full exclusion netting must be part of setting up an orchard and is the only effective method for protecting fruit crops from damage by flying-foxes, birds and hail.

The Solution - Use wildlife safe netting options, stop natural habitat destruction, and support bush regeneration initiatives

If flying-foxes were able to survive in their natural environment they would not choose to feed in orchards.

For further information: 

See 'Latest Updates':

1. Recent Report on Shooting in Queensland, NSW, Victoria & South Australia, Lawrence Pope (2 July 2019)

2. Humane Society International:

'Sensible, Successful Solution Saves Bats from Cruelty in NSW', Evan Quartermain
(10 November 2017)


Many thousands of flying-foxes continue to be electrocuted on power lines running through or adjacent to fig trees and flowering native trees.

In Spring and early Summer, often flying-foxes are carrying young when they rest on power lines and are electrocuted.

Their young will also die on their electrocuted mothers unless reported by observant members of the public hearing calls or seeing the baby moving on the dead mother.

When the figs on a Moreton Bay or Port Jackson tree are ripe or a Eucalyptus tree is in blossom, and the tree branches overhang or are intertwined with the ‘bare wire’ power lines, flying-foxes are easily electrocuted when foraging for food. 

The Solution - Aerial Bundled Cabling

"Aerial bundled cabling" is a bit of a mouthful but it's a very simple concept. Traditional aerial cables are unprotected and spaced apart to stop them zapping each other, but this means that anything that might touch 2 or more of the lines will instantly get zapped. 

In contrast, aerial bundled cables are each insulated with a protective sheath which means they can be wound together in a neat bundle which doesn't zap anything. 

Aerial bundled cabling is more efficient in conducting electricity, reduces the tree trimming costs, improves the streetscape, and eliminates time and cost in removal of flying-foxes from power lines.

Forced Dispersal of Colonies

Human encroachment into natural habitats generally negatively affects biodiversity. Therefore, with regard to flying-foxes, destruction of the their natural habitat and in response to native food shortages, flying-foxes are setting up camp near towns in search of reliable food supplies and shelter. Thus urban human – wildlife conflict is a growing area of management concern. As flying-foxes become more urbanised , the noise, smell and droppings from their roosts can impact on local residents.

Sydney Councils are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove flying-foxes with methods that create more problems and simply shift flying-foxes, which are a protected species, into neighbouring areas.

For example, the Sutherland Shire Council has agreed to spend $850,000 on a grey-headed flying-fox removal program, while Pittwater Council is spending $120,000 on lights, noise & smoke to get bats to leave Cannes Reserve, Avalon. Yet flying-foxes are not interested in people and there are no public health issues associated with a flying-fox colony in a reserve or near a school. However the risk to cause harm, stress & starvation to the animals by continually scaring them, is very high.

The remote chance that any bats may have been carrying lyssavirus is less than 1%. Yet ignorant, scaremongerers & tabloid press choose to be inflammatory indulging in intentional ‘beat up’ without any scientific fact.

In fact, the risk of people coming into contact with flying-foxes is greatly increased when animals are harassed, during attempts at colony removal, and have fallen to the ground or are hanging low in trees. Furthermore bats could become disorientated and fragment into small groups, again increasing the risk of the public coming into contact with them. 

There is now ample evidence to show that dispersals are extremely costly and can exacerbate the human-wildlife conflict that they aim to resolve.

The Solution - Stop natural habitat destruction and support bush regeneration initiatives

If flying-foxes were able to survive in their natural environment they would not choose to live in or nearby our urban areas.

Sandra Guy, Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH), reported that effective public communication is essential for flying-fox issues and that the following initiative was undertaken by the OEH Saving Our Species (SOS) team

The SOS Unit hosted a flying-fox land managers' network meeting in Newcastle in late May that was attended by 35 people, mostly from NSW councils. 

The aim was to discuss how to best communicate with communities really struggling to live near flying-fox camps. Raising the importance of flying-foxes to Australia's forests ignores the plight of those people experiencing peak impacts from flying-foxes. A different narrative for these people is required that includes acknowledging their difficulties and providing emergency support such as double glazing, protective sheeting for washing lines and cars.

OEH will develop some targeted communication materials for frontline council staff and will develop a pilot training program to be delivered in the coming months.

If we can reduce conflict at contentious flying-fox camps, we contribute to the long-term conservation of flying-foxes in the wild.

Grants are available for councils and other land managers responsible for flying fox camps to assist with management strategies and community impacts  to help secure the long term viability of flying foxes in the wild.  Interested land managers should contact the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and ask about the Saving our Species Contestable Grants Program or read more here:  

Habitat Destruction

Since European settlement, 230 years ago, approximately 80% of Australia’s Eucalypt forests have been cleared for farms and urban dwellings. Almost none of the 20% remaining forests are protected.

Francis Ratcliffe, an English ecologist & conservationist, who worked for the CSIRO in the 1920’s, studied wind erosion in South Australia and Queensland. His field research formed the basis of his classic book – Flying-fox & Drifting Sand, written in 1938, which portrayed his affection for the Australian bush and its native animals. 

Imagine how many wonderful, millions of flying-foxes were performing their magic as ‘night gardeners’ in the plentiful, rich Eucalyptus forests and rainforests during the early years of the previous century. Two billion people inhabited the planet back then, now almost 100 years later, the planet is suffering with an excessive population of 7.6 billion people which is causing significant ecological decline.

Clearing of the Eucalypt forests means that all wildlife, including flying-foxes,  will suffer from:

  • Increased disturbance from humans.
  • Starvation
  • Injury or death from manmade threats.
  • Increased competition for food.
  • Increased stress on animals, making them more susceptible to malnutrition and disease.

Widespread decline in wildlife has prompted an inquiry into our threatened species crisis. Destroying what is left of remnant forest and rainforest, and logging protected areas to meet wood supply is not the action of a responsible government. It was suggested that the NSW government conduct a review of the logging industry considering climate change, habitat conservation, socio-economic issues and the declining logging industry. The number of logging jobs and saw mills has collapsed in NSW, and future timber resources are becoming increasingly uncertain with climate change and forest dieback.

The Nature Conservation Council report (2013 – 2016) stated that the clearing of native trees has increased by 800% in NSW, and clearing rates in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia is equally as horrendous.

Mitchell J. Silver, New York’s Parks Commissioner, who visited Sydney in 2016, was appalled when he learned that the NSW Liberal Government was allowing 130 year old fig trees to be cut down for the much disputed light rail project. Mitchell Silver said that removing heritage trees would not have happened in New York, that his department does an tree audit of every street tree in Manhattan and 2 million park trees, as well.

The Solution - Support the community, social and political initiatives that are already in motion.

It is becoming clear that the best use of remaining Australian forests is to protect the wildlife that the tourism industry depends upon, protect the water supplies that our communities rely on and store the carbon that is driving climate breakdown.

Habitat destruction by thoughtless government, by individuals and native forest logging must cease. Positive alternatives like the National Park Association’s Great Koala National Park and Forests For All proposals need to be implemented.