Flying-fox research

There is significant research about flying-foxes underway; including populations, foraging habitat, causes of mortality and camp management strategies.

Populations

National Flying-fox Monitoring Program 

The National Flying-fox Monitoring Program (NFFMP) began in 2013 and is a collaborative project between the Australian, New South Wales, Queensland, Victorian, South Australian and ACT governments and the CSIRO.

Visit National flying-fox monitoring program.

New research is being carried out to improve current methods for counting flying-foxes.

Visit Using weather radar to monitor the number, timing and directions of flying-foxes emerging from their roosts.

Status and trends of Australia's EPBC-listed flying-foxes 

This report reviews past and current monitoring of Australia’s two threatened flying-fox species, the spectacled flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) and the grey-headed flying-fox (P. poliocephalus). On the basis of this review it considers their current conservation status.

Visit Status and trends of Australia's EPBC-listed flying-foxes.  

Flying-fox movements

Flying-fox movements research has shown that flying-foxes are highly nomadic. This has important implications for how they they should be managed and conserved.

Read Long-distance and frequent movements of the Pteropus poliocephalus: implications for management and Extreme mobility of the world's largest flying mammals creates key challenges for management and conservation.

Foraging habitat

Flying-foxes play an important role in pollinating native plants and dispersing seeds and in return rely on the availability of foraging habitat to survive. Research on flying-fox foraging habitat is therefore necessary for informing decisions for conserving both the species and the important function they perform.

Planting to conserve threatened nomadic pollinators in NSW

In 2016, the previous Office of Environment and Heritage funded a project examining how habitat restoration, enhancement and regeneration initiatives can target vegetation communities that provide food for threatened nomadic pollinators during seasonal bottlenecks in food availability.

The report identifies key winter and spring food plants for nomadic pollinators like the grey-headed flying-fox, and the vegetation communities that contain them. Recommendations for plantings in key regional areas are made, and the threatened pollinators that may benefit from the plantings are identified.

Visit Restoring pollinator habitat. 

Ranking the feeding habitats of grey-headed flying-foxes

This project defined foraging habitats for grey-headed flying foxes, ranked native vegetation within the range of the species according to the quality of foraging habitat it provides and generated bi-monthly nectar maps to describe seasonal resource changes.

Read Ranking the feeding habitats of grey-headed flying-foxes for conservation management main report.

This resource was further developed in 2019 to provide a state-wide assessment of foraging habitat for all three flying-fox species in NSW. This project was undertaken as part of the establishment of the Flying-fox Habitat Restoration Program, funded by the NSW Environmental Trust.

Causes of flying-fox mortality

Flying-foxes succumb to injury or death by a number of natural and non-natural causes. Understanding these causes of mortality is important for informing conservation priorities and strategies for flying-foxes. 

A recent study using rescue records from wildlife carers identified that entanglements in barbed-wire and fruit-netting, hyperthermia, orphaned pups and electrocutions on powerlines were leading causes of flying-fox injuries. This study also found that the large majority of recorded flying-fox rescues in NSW were the vulnerable grey-headed flying-fox.

Visit Using wildlife carer records to identify patterns in flying-fox rescues: a case study in New South Wales, Australia.

Extreme heat events

Extreme heat events can cause heat stress in flying-fox camps, in some cases leading to mass mortalities.

Western Sydney University and the University of Melbourne have developed the Flying-fox Heat Stress Forecaster, which helps stakeholders anticipate and prepare for the camps likely to be affected by imminent extreme heat events. The forecaster is being continually improved by ongoing research.

Visit Forecasting wildlife die‐offs from extreme heat events.

Wildlife carers and land managers are encouraged to contribute to a centralised repository of heat stress events by submitting data through an online data form.
Visit Flying-fox heat stress data form.

In particular, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is currently working with a number of partners including wildlife carers, local councils and other community groups to develop a conservative estimate of flying-foxes killed during the 2019-20 extreme heat events.

During extreme heat events, different stakeholders try to reduce flying-fox mortalities at affected camps.

A recent review found that our understanding of the effectiveness of intervention methods for reducing flying-fox mortalities during extreme heat events is mainly anecdotal rather than based on scientific studies.

Visit A review of intervention methods used to reduce flying-fox mortalities in heat stress events.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is collaborating with Western Sydney University to gather scientific data on how spraying water into flying-fox camps during extreme heat events influences site microclimate and flying-fox survival.

Camp management strategies 

During the day, flying-foxes congregate to roost in patches of trees, known as camps. As flying-foxes continue to forage and roost in areas close to human habitation, it is increasingly important to undertake research to inform best practice strategies for camp management.

Camp dispersal attempts review

To understand the use of dispersal as a management tool to resolve conflict between humans and flying-foxes, the outcomes of 17 camp dispersal attempts were systematically reviewed. The review identified a set of common outcomes of camp dispersal that should guide their use in Australia.

Read Review of past flying-fox dispersal actions between 1990 and 2013 (PDF 535KB).

This review is currently being updated to incorporate more recent camp dispersal attempts.

Subsidies for residents living near flying-foxes

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment carried out a review of subsidy programs that were implemented to help residents living close to flying-foxes to obtain mitigation equipment and services. The insights from this review are useful for land managers thinking about how to design subsidy programs and what products and services need to be offered.

Visit Subsidies for products and services to assist communities living with flying-foxes and Reducing human-wildlife conflict through subsidising mitigation equipment and services: helping communities living with the grey-headed flying-fox.

Camp management case studies

There are a number of published papers that provide case studies of camp management. These are a valuable resource for land managers wanting information about the effectiveness of particular strategies and lessons learnt.

The township of Maclean in the Northern Rivers region has experienced conflicts over a long period of time over flying-foxes roosting close to areas of human habitation.

In 2002, a paper published in Managing the Grey-headed Flying-fox as a Threatened Species in New South Wales documented the chronology of this camp.

Read Contemporary issues in managing flying-fox camps: a publicly-documented conflict from Maclean on the north coast of NSW.

In 2011, a paper published in The Biology and Conservation of Australasian Bats examined the consequences of attempts to relocate this flying-fox camp.

Read The outcomes and costs of relocating flying-fox camps: insights from the case of Maclean, Australia.

Flying-fox camps at Bellingen Island and Coffs Creek are both close to human habituation.

Case studies of these camps published in Managing the Grey-headed Flying-fox as a Threatened Species in New South Wales demonstrated the effectiveness of stakeholder engagement for facilitating two-way information exchanges that supported the formulation of management options incorporating community support.

Read Management of roost sites of the grey-headed flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus on the north coast of NSW: a National Parks and Wildlife Service perspective.

A series of camp management actions were implemented for a flying-fox camp in Kareela in southern Sydney. These actions and the lessons learnt are documented in a paper published in the Australian Zoologist journal.

Read From cleared buffers to camp dispersal: mitigating impacts of the Kareela flying-fox camp on adjacent residents and schools.

There are two flying-fox camps in Batemans Bay, one in a small bushland remnant and another in a golf course. Camp management actions were implemented to reduce impacts on residents and businesses but were substantially up-scaled when a large proportion of the entire species population descended on these two camps. These actions and the lessons learnt are documented in a paper published in the Australian Zoologist journal.

Visit Congregations of a threatened species: mitigating impacts from grey-headed flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus camps on the Batemans Bay community.