The Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) have sensibly decided to postpone for one year their plans to relocate their resident flying fox colony, however rather than simply delaying they really need to go back to the drawing board altogether.
While the RBG seem to be trying to keep publicity around the backdown low it seems that the plans have been abandoned because of the poor health of many of the bats. A condition of the relocation’s approval was that 100 bats be fitted with radio collars for monitoring, at least 60 of which must be females weighing more than 650g. However food shortages in recent months mean fewer bats than normal are at a healthy weight.
This would be a sensible juncture for the gardens to reconsider it’s plan entirely. The RBG claims the relocation is necessary to protect trees in the Gardens but there are a number of options that would allow bats and trees to coexist which haven’t been explored.
One such option, suggested by ecologists and Bat Advocacy NSW, who have worked tirelessly to defend the bats since this plan was first mooted, would be to plant fast growing trees that the bats would prefer as a habitat. This would result in the bats leaving alone the trees that the RBG are worried about. The RBG have given little consideration to such a plan, possibly because it would take 3-4 years to come to fruition. However, now that they have to wait at least a year before anything happens they have a lot less to lose by giving this option a go.
I hope the RBG give alternative options such as this serious consideration but up to this point they have been frustratingly narrow minded in their desire to remove the bats. It seems they are aiming for a Garden that is nicely manicured but completely sterile and free of wildlife – which is a shame given that to many people the gardens are so much more than this.
The nightly fly-out of thousands of flying foxes from the Gardens is a Sydney icon and images of the bats are used along with pictures of kangaroos, koalas and Uluru to promote Australia overseas as a tourist destination. If they were to go, not only would this threatened species lose a valuable piece of habitat but all of Sydney would lose a natural wonder.