Chillers In The Mist: Council Moves To Save Frying Foxes

Sun Herald

Sunday December 7, 2003

By MARNIE O'NEILL

A COLONY of flying foxes won't become frying foxes this summer as Fairfield Council moves to make sure they keep their cool by bathing them in a regular spray of mist. More than 3000 flying foxes a third of the Cabramatta Creek colony's population died of heat stress in soaring January temperatures last summer after a plague of white ibises destroyed their habitat and the vegetation in which they shelter.

Fairfield Council will install mist sprinklers for the flying foxes while trying to slow ibis breeding by disturbing the birds' nests and destroying their eggs.

Fairfield Mayor Nick Lalich said the ibis population exploded from just six in October 2001 to more than 300 in October last year.

``They breed like rabbits," Mr Lalich said. ``We lost about 3000 flying foxes last year during the heat wave because the ibises were destroying all their shelters. The birds, which are not exactly small, stand around on the branches and break them off so when it was really hot and the flying foxes wanted some shelter they were stuffed.

``Not only that, but the ibis faeces were killing the undergrowth because it's so strong and acidic. So, to protect the bats, council is going to put up mist sprinklers at the creek to keep them cool. We should have them up and running in time for the start of the very hot weather."

Mr Lalich said the plan was unaffected by the water restrictions because the mist sprinklers would recycle water from Cabramatta Creek.

Council communications officer Ruth Williams said the National Parks and Wildlife Service gave the council permission in August to trap ibises humanely at Cabramatta Creek and to kill them humanely with carbon monoxide.

``We did not want to use poison because it would affect other animals and birds at the reserve and we are having trouble trapping them so we are trialling other ways to keep the population down," Ms Williams said.

While the bats are protected by the council Cabramatta Creek is one of only two breeding places in the metropolitan area many residents regard them as just as much an environmental menace as the ibises.

``Some people were saying it should be the other way around and the flying foxes should be culled because they will actually come into other people's backyards and eat their fruit while the ibises will just fly in and stand around," Mr Lalich said.

``We didn't want to kill them in large quantities because people don't like to see that kind of thing. What we're doing instead is trying to stop the breeding by disturbing the nests and destroying the eggs."

© 2003 Sun Herald

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