Level 2 actions: creating buffers

Level 2 flying-fox camp management actions involve creating buffers around camps to separate humans and flying-foxes.

Level 2 management actions should not be carried out with the aim of killing, harming or dispersing/disturbing flying-foxes.

Plans for creating buffers should be developed as part of a camp management plan using the Camp management plan template (DOC 355KB), and you may need a licence.

Creating buffers may include:

  • Trimming or clearing vegetation at the camp boundary to create a buffer between the flying-fox camp and areas of human settlement. The removal of a whole tree that poses a genuine health and safety risk (as determined by a qualified arborist) may constitute a Level 1 management action.
  • Revegetating areas between the flying-fox camp and areas of human settlement with plants that are unsuitable roost habitat.
  • Extending roosting habitat by revegetating away from areas of human settlement. If flying-foxes are not using the area to be revegetated this could be considered a Level 1 management action.
  • Disturbing animals at the boundary of the camp to encourage roosting in nearby vegetation.

This page gives more information about creating buffers and should be read in conjunction with the Flying-fox Camp Management Code of Practice 2018 and Flying-fox Camp Management Policy 2015 (PDF 200KB).

What should I consider before implementing Level 2 management actions?

Community engagement is an important part of any camp management plan. The local community should be engaged before undertaking any camp management actions.

Consideration should be given to how any management actions proposed for a flying-fox camp conform to the hierarchy of actions in the Flying-fox Camp Management Policy 2015.

For example, Level 2 management actions may not be necessary if routine camp management Level 1 actions can effectively mitigate the issue.

Buffers can be made by trimming vegetation, removing a corridor of vegetation along the boundary of a camp, or revegetating the area between the camp and nearby human settlements.

For example, vegetation trimming can be used to create a small buffer between humans or conflict areas and the flying-fox camp. This can be used to establish goodwill and build relationships and tolerance with neighbours.

Vegetation removal can be used to create a substantial buffer between humans, or conflict areas, and the flying-fox camp. This should only be considered in large remnants or at sites with extreme and ongoing conflict that would cause a negative impact on the animals if nothing is done. Buffers of less than 50 metres may be ineffective in mitigating the smell and noise from a flying-fox camp.

Revegetation with trees unsuitable for roost habitat can create a visual buffer in conflict areas, making areas of the colony inaccessible to humans or extending the camp vegetation away from residents. This is a longer-term management tool because it will take time for the vegetation to grow.

Disturbance of flying-foxes at the boundary of a camp is unlikely to result in a long-term solution. Without accompanying structural changes to the vegetation in the area of disturbance, flying-foxes are likely to return to the site once the disturbance has ended. As well, disturbance may lead to dispersal, which is a Level 3 management action requiring a different set of considerations and requirements.

Consider installing noise attenuation fencing in areas where the roost is particularly close to residents. Although expensive to install, this option would remove the need for habitat modification, maintain the ecological values of the site, and likely to be more cost effective than ongoing dispersal.

If possible, land-use planning should be used to provide sufficient space between established flying-fox camps and residential, commercial and industrial neighbours.

Camp boundaries and buffers should take into consideration the variability of use of a camp by flying-foxes within and across years. Particularly, buffers need to cater for large, seasonal influxes of flying-foxes, as these often trigger greater community concern.

Consider the long-term implications of revegetation, because it takes time for trees to grow large enough to be used by flying-foxes.

  • Level 2 actions are best scheduled outside critical reproductive periods. Reproductive periods are from the time the resident female flying-foxes are heavily pregnant until the young can fly independently. This is generally from August to May for grey-headed and black flying-foxes and April to December for little red flying-foxes.
  • The timing of the reproductive cycle varies between species, between years and between sites.
  • Expert assessment may be needed on a site-by-site basis to ensure Level 2 management actions are timed appropriately.
  • Consider scheduling activities for when the roost is unoccupied, i.e. when the bats have left the site at night for nightly foraging activities, or for non-permanent roosts, when the roost is seasonally unoccupied.
  • Level 2 actions shouldn't occur when temperatures are higher than 35°C during the day.

For sites with grey-headed and/or black flying-foxes

Month Actions
January, February, March, April Level 1, 2 and 3 management actions not recommended
May, June, July, August Level 1, 2 and 3 management actions may be allowed
September, October, November, December Level 1, 2 and 3 management actions not recommended


Do I need approvals or licences for Level 2 management actions?

Clearing and trimming trees at the camp boundary and disturbing animals at the boundary to encourage them to move away from contentious areas can disturb animals in the whole roost area and result in a dispersal of animals.

Therefore the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water generally requires approvals to be sought for Level 2 management actions.

Public land managers must apply for a biodiversity conservation licence from the department or implement Level 2 actions as prescribed by the Flying-fox Camp Management Code of Practice 2018.

Private land managers must obtain a licence from the department.

Land managers should take note of the following legislation:

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979

Approval from the department to alter the structure of flying-fox roost habitat does not remove the need to abide by the requirements of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979.

Read the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979.

Approval under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979

Actions licensed by the department or consistent with the Flying-fox Camp Management Code of Practice 2018 may also need approval under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 if they constitute 'development' as defined by the Act.

Read the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

Approval under Australian Government legislation

Camp management actions in or near camps of grey-headed flying-foxes may also require approval under Australian Government legislation.

The Australian Government gives guidance on whether management actions at a flying-fox camp are ‘controlled actions’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

How do I implement Level 2 management actions?

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water recommends mapping the camp area before clearing or trimming trees to create a buffer.

If possible, land managers should use cadastral boundaries and overlay with satellite imagery. The maps should identify the approximate total area of the camp, the approximate area occupied by flying-foxes (including historical occupation), the location and size of the area that would need to be cleared or trimmed to create a suitable buffer, and whether there is a suitably sized replacement area next to the camp that is available for the displaced flying-foxes.

The department recommends a site visit before starting any management actions to ground truth the mapping and to have a suitably qualified/skilled person assess the camp.

The assessment should include a count of each flying-fox species present, the total number of flying-foxes, the number of pregnant females, the number of dependent young, the type of vegetation present, which trees are used as roosts, and whether there are other threatened species or ecological communities/populations present.

Before starting Level 2 management actions, conduct a health and safety risk assessment to determine whether pre-exposure vaccinations are needed, the appropriate levels of personal protective equipment needed, and to identify protocols to minimise risks to both the public and flying-foxes.

Training may be required for some staff, such as those who will be handling injured, sick or dead flying-foxes.

Workers should be made aware of the potential health risks associated with working with flying-foxes.

Refer to the Flying-foxes and Human Health fact sheet for more information.

Any vegetation works and maintenance should be done in a way that minimises disturbance to the colony.

The Department recommends that Level 2 management actions occur at night when flying-foxes are away foraging, or when the camp is seasonally empty, but recognises that temporary disturbance may be unavoidable in some circumstances.

Activities should be closely monitored by a person with suitable experience in flying-fox behaviour.

In line with the requirements of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, the welfare of animals present must be taken into account. 

If Level 2 management actions need to be undertaken during the day, work must stop immediately and the Department immediately notified:

  • if 30% or more of the adult flying-foxes leave the roost for 5 minutes or more
  • if the death of a flying-fox occurs as a result of the work.

If possible, any major works near the camp site involving machinery or construction should occur outside flying-fox reproductive periods. This will reduce the possibility of disturbing the colony and dispersing bats to less desirable locations. Ideally, works should be conducted when flying-foxes are absent.

When flying-foxes are present, consider starting works at the end of the site furthest from the flying-foxes and working slowly towards the roost, or alternatively, leaving the area nearest the flying-foxes until early evening.

Avoid using 2-stroke engines such as chainsaws, whipper snippers and lawn mowers because they are highly disruptive to roosting flying-foxes. If chainsaws are needed, consider starting the chainsaw away from the roost and letting it run for a short time to allow the flying-foxes to adjust, then move closer to them and repeat the procedure.

The use of loud machinery or equipment that produces sudden impacts or sudden loud sounds should be minimised.

Avoid driving or parking vehicles in or near flying-fox camps. If possible, park vehicles and equipment away from the direct line of sight of roosting flying-foxes.

Avoid using large work crews. Consider a two-person crew, with one doing the work and the other acting as a 'spotter' to watch the flying-foxes so work can stop at the first sign of flying-fox disturbance.

Avoid trimming shrubs and trees when flying-foxes are present, especially during flying-fox reproductive periods. Ideally, trimming should occur at night when flying-foxes are foraging or when the camp is seasonally empty.

Vegetation should be trimmed by a qualified arborist so trees remain viable and do not become a safety issue.

The size of the vegetation patch should be considered before it's removed. Avoid removing vegetation from small patches as this is unlikely to create an effective buffer.

Removal should only be considered in large remnants or at sites with extreme and ongoing conflict where the consequences of doing nothing could have a negative impact on the animals.

Avoid incremental and ongoing removal of vegetation for the creation of buffers, and aim for no net loss of vegetation used by flying-foxes.

Avoid vegetation removal especially where there may be impacts on other threatened species or ecological communities.

Avoid plants that need regular maintenance. Consider replacing areas that need regular mowing with low shrubs (less than 3 metres high), preferably in a mulched bed. This reduces the need for regular disturbance from maintenance works.

Improve the core area or extend the remnant with roost trees to bring animals back to preferred areas and prevent them spilling over into neighbouring properties.

Suitable roost tree species may be planted to extend the camp away from contentious areas. When planning to do so, proper timelines should be set for replanting as many trees take more than 5 years to grow to a sufficient height.

Consider edge planting with low-growing thorny and spiky plants (less than 3 metres high) to prevent people from entering the camp, disturbing the colony, or interfering with regeneration.

If flying-foxes are actively roosting in vegetation that is flagged for trimming or removal, local disturbance may be required to deter flying-foxes from roosting in the affected trees before work begins.

Expert assessment to determine whether such action will result in a full dispersal from the site may be needed. Seek advice from the Department, and refer to the Level 3 management actions page for more information.

If noise attenuation fencing is proposed, a plan to mitigate impacts on the flying-fox camp should be developed and submitted to the Department because the fencing construction works raise the possibility of dispersal.

Monitoring, evaluation and reporting

Monitoring is essential for assessing the effectiveness of camp management actions and learning from what has and hasn't worked.

It helps the development of more effective management actions in the future and helps other land managers and communities plan their management actions. 

Monitoring conditions are often licence conditions, and may include:

  • Mapping the flying-fox camp, including its key features and how it is used by flying-foxes. To understand the impacts of management actions, this should be done before, during and after the actions are implemented.
  • Measuring the area of roost vegetation removed through clearing, and area of additional habitat identified or revegetated.
  • Conducting detailed flying-fox counts including species present, numbers, condition of animals and the presence of pregnant females or females with young. This should be done before, during and after the actions are implemented. Surveys should be conducted 1 month, 6 months and 12 months after the management actions are complete to understand the long-term impact.
  • Recording details of flying-fox behaviour during management activities, including signs of visible distress, injury or death.
  • Surveying affected neighbours and the local community before and after management actions, to monitor their response to the outcomes of the management actions. This is an integral part of any community engagement strategy.

Land managers should consider keeping detailed records of management activities and their outcomes for contribution to national flying-fox networks and to help other land managers and communities deal with similar issues.

Monitoring datasheets are available for monitoring Level 2 management actions. Information should be sent to flying.fox@environment.nsw.gov.au, and also used by the land manager to inform future management decisions.

Need help or more information?

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water helps local government, public authority land managers and individual land holders to choose the right level of intervention for their situation.

Contact us at Flying-fox Mailbox.