Flying-fox management

We oversee the conservation and effective and humane management of flying-foxes in NSW.

During the day, flying-foxes roost in patches of trees, known as camps, which may contain tens to thousands of individuals. 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 NSW. 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 could be undertaken by a range of stakeholders.

Key threats to flying-foxes

Key threats to flying-foxes include:

  • loss of foraging and roosting habitat
  • conflict with humans at urban flying-fox camps
  • incidental deaths from entanglements in barbed-wire and fruit netting, electrocutions on powerlines, and poisoning and injuries from exotic plants such as cocos palms
  • heat stress.

Visit Heat stress in flying-fox camps for more information.

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. Communities 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 Planning, Industry and Environment Flying-fox Camp Management Policy 2015 empowers land managers, primarily local councils, to work with their communities to manage flying-fox camps effectively. The main purpose of this policy is to minimise health and lifestyle impacts of flying-fox camps on people, at the same time as avoiding unnecessary harm to flying-foxes.

The focus of the policy for the management of flying-foxes 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.

Visit Flying-fox camp management and Living near a flying-fox camp for more information.

Impacts of flying-foxes on agriculture

Flying-foxes can potentially have an impact on commercial fruit growers, especially during prolonged periods of flying-fox food shortages.

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 flying-fox licensing review concluded that shooting is ineffective when larger numbers of flying-foxes visit orchards and is a contributing factor to the decline of the species. In response to the review panel's recommendations, licences to harm flying-foxes have only been granted under special circumstances since 1 July 2015.

Visit Flying-foxes and commercial crops for more information.

Key management approaches

Flying-foxes are one of several threatened species in NSW 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.

Visit Rescuing and rehabilitating injured flying-foxes for more information.

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

Visit National Flying-fox Monitoring Program for more information.

To provide balanced public input into flying-fox issues, the Department of Environment and Conservation (now Department of Planning, Industry and Environment) 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 NSW.

The committee is convened by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and includes representatives of key interested parties, including:

  • Batwatch
  • Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy
  • 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