Flying-fox management

We oversee the conservation and effective and humane management of flying-foxes in New South Wales.

During the day, flying-foxes roost in trees. The places they roost are known as camps and may contain tens to thousands of individuals at a time. At night, flying-foxes disperse from camps to feed across the landscape.

Flying-foxes are protected in New South Wales by the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

It is an offence under the Act to harm or attempt to harm a native animal unless authorised by a biodiversity conservation licence or approved code of practice, or an exemption under the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017.

Flying-fox conservation

Saving our Species is the NSW Government's statewide program that aims to secure threatened plants and animals in the wild in New South Wales. Under this program, the grey-headed flying-fox is assigned to the Landscape species management stream. Landscape-managed species are best helped by addressing threats such as habitat loss or degradation within a landscape.

The conservation project for the grey-headed flying-fox includes an action toolbox of priority actions to address key threats that a range of stakeholders could undertake.

Key threats to flying-foxes

Flying-foxes face a number of threats. The most significant threat is the loss of foraging and roost habitat. This plays a role in times of food shortage, during which large numbers of flying-foxes may die from starvation.

Flying-fox deaths also occur from a range of human-induced threats. An examination of wildlife carer records found that entanglements in barbed-wire and large-aperture fruit netting, electrocutions on powerlines and extreme heat events are among the highest causes of flying-foxes requiring rescues.

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Impacts of flying-fox camps on communities

Flying-fox camps close to urban and regional settlements can create issues for the community and require proactive management. People may be impacted by noise, odour and flying-fox droppings. These issues can be addressed by effective camp management actions and working with impacted communities.

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water Flying-fox Camp Management Policy 2015 empowers land managers, primarily local councils, to work with their communities to manage flying-fox camps effectively. The primary purpose of this policy is to minimise the health and lifestyle impacts of flying-fox camps on people while avoiding unnecessary harm to flying-foxes.

The focus of the policy is to minimise the immediate impacts of flying-foxes on people, as well as a longer-term approach to the sustainable management of flying-fox camps and streamlined authorisation of actions at or near camps.

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Flying-foxes and commercial crops

Flying-foxes can potentially impact commercial fruit growers, especially during prolonged periods of flying-fox food shortages such as drought.

The most reliable method for mitigating impacts is using full-exclusion netting or throwover netting.

An independent review of licensing was commissioned in 2008, to assess the validity of the NSW licensing policy for the legal harm (including killing) of flying-foxes.

This review concluded that shooting is ineffective when larger numbers of flying-foxes visit orchards and contributes to the species' decline. In response to the review panel's recommendations, licences to harm flying-foxes were only granted under special circumstances from July 2015 to June 2021.

Since 1 July 2021, the shooting of flying-foxes is not permitted in New South Wales.

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Key management approaches

Flying-foxes are one of several threatened species in New South Wales that play important roles in maintaining critical ecological functions through pollination across the landscape.

Guidance is now available about restoring foraging habitat for long-distance pollinators. The guide recommends which trees to plant in each region. The trees will eventually address current gaps in native food availability by providing abundant nectar supplies in winter and spring.

Several key threats affecting flying-foxes are helped by the efforts of the wildlife carers who are specially trained to handle them. Wildlife rescue and rehabilitation providers are licensed under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

If you find an injured, sick or orphaned flying-fox, contact a licensed wildlife rescue and rehabilitation provider or use the IFAW Wildlife Rescue App to quickly find the closest licensed carer to contact.

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The National Flying-fox Monitoring Program began in February 2013 and a population census is held every three months.

It is the longest running monitoring effort for the grey-headed flying-fox across the entire national range of the species.

The census has aimed to deliver a reliable benchmark on the size of the grey-headed flying-fox population in 2013 and to monitor population trends since then.

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To provide balanced public input into flying-fox issues, the Department of Environment and Conservation (now Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water) established the NSW Flying-Fox Consultative Committee in August 2001. The establishment of the committee was shortly after the listing of the grey-headed flying-fox as a threatened species in New South Wales.

The committee is convened by the NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water and includes representatives of key interested parties, including:

  • Batwatch
  • Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
  • Forestry Corporation of NSW
  • Humane Society International
  • Local Government NSW
  • Nature Conservation Council of NSW
  • NSW Department of Primary Industries
  • NSW Farmers Association
  • NSW Health
  • NSW Wildlife Council
  • Orchardists
  • Scientists
  • World Wildlife Fund Australia