Highfields Flying Foxes to lose habitat

Toowoomba Regional Council has announced further intention to disperse a flying fox colony at a Council Bushland Reserve in Highfields after complaints from locals to have them removed. Scare tactics were used in March 2014 to disperse the colony from its roost, but had to be disbanded when juvenile flying foxes were found amongst the campsite.

"Flying fox camps are often semi-permanent, sometimes dispersing seasonally or when food is no longer available nearby.  Little red flying foxes are particularly nomadic, following the bloom of eucalyptus as the nectar is one of their main food sources."  source: Toowoomba Regional Council Website.

Toowoomba Regional Council's latest plans to disperse the flying foxes will involve "Vegetation Management."

WHAT DOES VEGETATION MANAGEMENT MEAN?  Vegetation management usually involve the removal of the plant understory, which is also home to many other wildlife fauna species that call the vegetation their home. The area in question is also a known Koala habitat, which is know to Council and local residents. Actions to disperse flying foxes from their current roosting habitats can go as far as total destruction of that roosting vegetation on some areas.  Campsites such as the one located in Highfields are important daytime refuges and resting areas for flying foxes for up to 12 hours per day after they have spent many hours during the night in search of food.  Long term effects of dispersal programs such as vegetation management and scare tactics are unknown. Flying foxes are moved on from their current campsite locations to become "someone else's problem".

Highfields Flying Fox Campsite - Sunday 15th June 2014 - Photo taken from Jackson Close, Highfields with Zoom Lens. See wideframe of area below.
Highfields Flying Fox Campsite - Photo taken from Jackson Close Highfields, Sunday 15th June 2014, mid afternoon.  The area in view (mainly two-three trees were the only ones with flying foxes residing in them in the whole reserve).  Photos were take on a zoom lens as they were next to impossible to see from the road.

Bats.org.au tells us that "Dispersing a flying-fox colony will be risky business as their movements are unpredictable. As free flying mammals they cannot be herded or directed to what we humans think would be a more desirable site. It is highly likely that they will move to a less desirable site where they will be even more difficult to manage and potentially increase the human wildlife interactions and conflict."

More information on Flying Fox Campsites:  Flying Fox Campsites are a a place where young are born and nurtured until strong enough to be able to fly out to forage with adults. It’s also where a lot of communication takes place between mothers and young, socialising teenagers, mating adults and males squabbling over territories. A campsite can be temporary or it can be permanent. Some are only occupied for short periods when flowering maybe abundant, we call these camps. While other roosts that are permanently occupied all year round and may have been there for many hundreds of years, we call these colonies. Campsites are the most important refuge for the lives of bats and this is where flying-foxes call home. Even so they do not have fidelity to one particular site but move in relation to food and breeding cycles. An adult flying-fox my visit campsites many hundreds of kilometres apart and all of the ones in between.

A flying-foxes main motivation for staying in urban areas is the availability to easy food resources and the safety of camp sites due to the fact that people are unable to discharge firearms in built up areas. The dispersal of flying-foxes is only now being used as a management tool. What long term effects they have on breeding status and disease prevalence is still largely unknown. We do know that dispersal's rarely work over time and are more likely to move the bats to become someone else’s problem. Dispersal action will then no doubt be repeated, perhaps many times.

Two of the four flying-foxes in Qld, the Grey-headed flying-fox and the Spectacled flying-fox are nationally threatened. Man made causes such as legal and illegal shooting at orchards, land clearing, roost habitat destruction and ongoing harassment take their toll. Other factors such as heat stress and prolonged drought or prolonged wet and unpredictable forest flowering causing starvation events that are in some cases wiping out entire generations of young or old. All of these causes are now witness to plummeting populations of flying-foxes which will have serious consequences for their health and well being. On top of all of this, bats will now face legalised colony destruction – in the guise of dispersal's. -SOURCE: bats.org.au

Flying-foxes have an important ecological role because their feeding behaviour helps pollinate and disperse the seeds of native trees. 
Flying-foxes spread the pollen of valuable plants as they feed, so they play an important role in our environment. Some plants even rely on flying-foxes to pollinate their species. SOURCE: Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland 

While I understand that the no one wants to be the one trying to sort out the management of flying foxes co-habitation with residences in environmental areas,  I do not see how further eradicating  parts of their natural environment helps the situation?  There will be even less areas for them to go and to me this seems like a backward approach that will ultimately increase the problem which has stemmed from habitat loss in the first place.  It would be a terrible shame to lose any of these beautiful gum trees or native shrubs in the Woolmer Road area.  I am sure that this beautiful backdrop was part of the appeal of people who purchased the surrounding properties when the development backing onto this reserve was created.  

My thoughts are that since habitat loss is one of the main reasons for flying fox urbanization, possibly looking at planting/providing an ideal habitat for flying foxes that included a wide variety of flowering & fruiting native plants, away from the suburban areas would be more of a long-term resolution to please the flying foxes and suburban residents.  Such a plantation area could provide an ideal habitat away from suburban areas and may avoid them having to re-locate to urbanized areas in search of food. Of course there is no guarantee that they would use such an area.

In preparation for this post, I have visited the site in person (see photographs taken 15th June 2014).On the occasion of my visit to the site which was mid-afternoon, I was only able to see the Black Flying-Foxes present, with the Little Red Flying Fox clearly having moved on from this camspite. The habitat was not stripped or decimated as I expected it to be after hearing about the huge population in this location.  Honestly, I found it very hard to even see where the flying foxes were in the area and the noise was very minimal during my visit.  I have spent some time researching the local and Queensland flying foxes species and I have spoken to local wildlife experts and also spoken to Toowoomba Regional Councillors who shared my concerns.  

Today I spoke with TRC Parks and Environment Staff in person and expressed my concerns about vegetation management and loss of habitat for flying foxes, koalas and other wildlife residing within the Highfields reserve in question. Today TRC staff told me that they would consider my concerns but did not inform me that that the vegetation management was already planned and scheduled for the following day!  It was not until a local Highfields resident from the Woolmer Road area contacted me this afternoon to let me know that the local residents had been notified today by flyer distribution (see attached document) that vegetation management at Highfields would commence tomorrow, 20th June 2014.

"Selective Vegetation Management will be used to render the Highfields Park unattractive for roosting Flying Foxes".- SOURCE: TRC Residents Flying Fox Flyer 19/06/14

I do hope that the loss of vegetation and the distress to the flying foxes and other wildlife living in this area is minimal.  After photo and information updates to come.

Judi Gray

UPDATE:  20/06/14.  I spoke with TRC Environment Departrment today who informed me that initial vegetation clearing at the Woolmer Road Reserve will only begin with clearing of lantana that resides under the trees in which the flying foxes are roosting.  Gum Trees and branches will not be removed at this stage as part of the dispersal plan to manage the flying fox campsite. J.G.

UPDATE:  11/07/2014.  Toowoomba Regional Council reports that the flying fox dispersal at Highfields, Woolmer Road campsite has been successful, however there are plans to "trim the large trees and remove some of the lower canopy" to discourage the return of the flying foxes.  Below update from Toowoomba Regional Council:  
Highfields- Progress so far:
  • 30 June-04 July: Active dispersal is carried out at the Woolmer Road Roost and a site near Parkway Drive, where flying foxes relocated to. Approximately 1000 flying foxes move between the two sites but don't leave the Highfields area.
  • An independent assessment by an expert in flying fox biology reveals that the remaining animals are subadults. While these are able to fly and forage independently, they still lack the experience to relocate without the guidance of more senior members of the colony.
  • 07-10 July: Dispersal is carried out at the Woolmer Road roost only and achieves to move the entire remaining colony to the Parkway Drive site.
  • A second stage of vegetation management at Woolmer Road is planned to maintain the original roost site in close proximity to residential properties free of flying foxes. This will include trimming of some of the larger trees and slightly opening up the lower canopy.
  • The colony is being closely monitored and active dispersal will re-commence at a later date.
More information here...http://www.toowoombarc.qld.gov.au/environment-and-waste/wildlife/flying-foxes/10445-roost-updates 

Same trees as above photographed from Woolmer Road, Council Reserve Entrance with Zoom Lens.  Sunday 15th June 2014.  See wide view of area below.

Highfields Flying Fox Campsite, 2-3 trees with flying foxes evident - Sunday 15th June 2014.  Photo taken from Council Reserve Entrance, Woolmer Road, Highfields with normal to capture full area - showcasing the few trees with present flying foxes on this day.

Highfields Flying Fox Campsite, 2-3 trees with flying foxes evident - Sunday 15th June 2014.  Photo taken from Council Reserve Entrance, Woolmer Road, Highfields

Highfields Flying Fox Campsite, 2-3 trees with flying foxes evident - Sunday 15th June 2014.  Photo taken from Council Reserve Entrance, Woolmer Road, Highfields with zoom lense to capture present flying foxes

Highfields Flying Fox Campsite, 2-3 trees with flying foxes evident - Sunday 15th June 2014.  Photo taken from Council Reserve Entrance, Woolmer Road, Highfields with zoom lense to capture present flying foxes

PAGE 1 -Information Flyer supplied to residents in the Woolmer Road, Jackson Close, Holly Avenue areas of the Flying Fox Campsite at the TRC Bushland Reserve on 19th June 2014.

PAGE 2 - Information Flyer supplied to residents in the Woolmer Road, Jackson Close, Holly Avenue areas of the Flying Fox Campsite at the TRC Bushland Reserve on 19th June 2014.



Information and opinion collaborated by Judi Gray
15-06/14 - 19/06/14


  1. Hi I am a resident of Woolmer rd...please give me your phone number. ..I will ring you around 3.30 - 4 each am and scream into your ear for about 3 hours. I will do this every day week after week, month after month...cheers..Cathy ollason

    1. Hi Cathy Ollason, thank you for our interesting comment. I sympathize that the situation of the flying foxes camping in a zoned nature reserve near your home isn't your ideal picture of urban lifestyle. You will see that my article is purely a collaboration of facts about the situation, in which all information has been explained by experts, including the Toowoomba Regional Council. As you will be aware, the urbanization of flying foxes has occurred due to habitat loss in other areas and this is one of my main concerns, and also a major concern and dilemma for council and it is something that has to be considered when trying to come up with a long term plan for a wildlife habitat that also resolves the concerns of residents also. The area in question is not only an temporary home to flying foxes, but also a food source and habitat for Koalas, Gliders and many other types of native animals. I am sure this was one of the reasons why you chose to live near a nature reserve - to enjoy the best of what nature offers. You will understand then of course, the concern of other locals, that there was talk of other native habitat loss in the reserve, prompting the need to put all of the facts & information into this one blog post. Fortunately, as you will see if you read all of my article, Toowoomba Regional Council experts have done extensive research and are also working closely with other wildlife experts to ensure that no native vegetation loss occurs, and that only lantana will be removed at this stage. TRC has informed me that the lantana undergrowth is something that makes such a location appealing to flying foxes searching for a campsite, so all being well, once this has been removed, you will hopefully be able to once again enjoy the location as you once did, and the flying foxes will be moved on to be someone else's "problem". It would be good to see a long-term solution that could avoid such concerns in the future, possibly areas like the one you live in, when planned in future similar areas, should have a recommended buffer zone around precious wildlife corridors, to avoid the situation you are now in. Many thanks for taking the time to read the article and to research the flying foxes in your area further. I am sure TRC will keep you updated on the dispersal program and will continue to work with residents such as yourself to find a solution. Many Thanks, Kind Regards, Judith Gray

  2. You have a habit of flooding your posts with information that make your contributions look factual. However that is not the case. When you say you could see a few trees with flying foxes in them you obviously couldn't see those that are roosting in the tree on the opposite side of the gully
    ...6 metres from our bedroom window! You speak of native vegetation and the removal of Santana...there is also asparagus fern, rubber vine and prickly pear there...all noxious. You mentioned koalas...we have been there nine years and have never seen one. You talk of no damage to trees..the trees on our side down the gully have been stripped bare..many large limbs snapped due to immense weight of these creatures. you spoke of only two residents that have voiced their concerns which is also not true as we were one of an extensive list of residents that put in a submission to the council. You only need to Google house sales over the last twelve months for Jackson close and holly avenue to see how many people have been affected by this. My husband and I spent 25 years paying off our mortgage only to be dumped in this nightmare. You are concerned about the welfare of flying foxes.....I have resorted to a year of sleeping tablets. .have had to go to work day after day on broken sleep and have even been prescribed antidepressants. Anytime a work colleague would Adkins me how things were going with the bats I would burst into tears. The worse this g about all this is how I have changed my view regarding environmentalistshirt such as yourself. I infect thought of myself as an environmentalist before this scenario but my perspective had completely changed. You really need to understand the true impact on people's mental health before you pass such biased views on an issue.

  3. How is it that additional comments I have provided are not published? Again. ..blatant bias!

    1. Hi Cathy, I'm saddened to hear of your emotional distress. I do believe that council are going their best to find a solution to please everyone and I honestly don't envy their position as peacekeepers and the ones trying to find a suitable outcome.

      With regards to my blog, all comments require manual approval & when I'm working or busy with my family I don't get a chance to log in.

      I do hope you will get to spot a koala in the wild sometime in the future, they are terribly hard to see especially when up very high, but there's nothing quite like seeing one in their natural environment. They are truly beautiful animals.

      All the best, kind regards, Judith Gray


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