Backyard flying foxes distresses outback family
Updated July 25, 2011 11:46:37
A family living with up to 50,000 flying foxes in their backyard at Barcaldine in central-west Queensland say authorities seem more concerned about the welfare of the animals than the risk of hendra virus on people.
Brett Walsh says the flying foxes arrived in February and they have been allowed to disperse because they have been breeding.
Mr Walsh says horse owners in Barcaldine are worried about the rise in the incidence of the potentially fatal hendra virus, which is a bat-borne disease.
Ten horses have died in eight locations across Queensland, 87 are being monitored, and up to 60 people have been tested since the first outbreak last month.
He says he has applied for a damage mitigation permit, but it is likely to be some weeks before conditions can be met for it to be approved.
Mr Walsh says authorities seem more focused on the welfare of the flying foxes and it has been a difficult five months for the family.
"Emotionally, it's been fairly distressing, even depressing," he said.
"We had on officer from DERM [Department of Environment and Resource Management] come out last week.
"His estimate is there's between 30,000 and 50,000 flying foxes in our backyard.
"The officer ... estimated there was still a 1,000 immature young there, but he estimated they would capable of sustained flight within about two weeks.
"Our garden is completely destroyed - the odour, the noise, having to literally walk around with an umbrella in your own backyard."
Mr Walsh says the local pony club and race-horsing stables are very concerned.
"The horse owners are extremely concerned and a lot of them have moved their horses away from the flight path of the flying foxes," he said.
"It's a concern about human health as well, because there is just so much unknown science about how hendra is spread."
Mr Walsh says a new state permit system for councils to remove colonies is welcome but he has been told his situation is a landholder responsibility.
"There has to be some balance in this, but it seems that all the responsibility is on our shoulders," he said.