Casino’s flying-fox camp is made up of grey-headed and black fruit bats, and at the start of each year they are joined by the nomadic little red. The bats roost in trees on the banks of the Richmond River, and in adjoining parks, causing much angst to some of their human neighbours. Issues raised by the community include loud noises, smell, and faecal droppings on cars, homes and washing, as well as the fear of diseases associated with flying foxes. The trees and surrounding areas well and truly show the wear and tear of having thousands of bats on them.
Under a new State Government policy, Richmond Valley Council can now take a more direct line in managing the flying-fox population in Casino. The Flying-fox Camp Management Policy 2014 (see below), will empower Council and other land managers, including private property owners, to work with the community to effectively manage the Casino flying-fox camp. If approved by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Council’s new management plan will lead to a five-year licence, allowing ongoing management of the flying-fox camp. The new management plan will improve on work last year to move the flying foxes away from the Casino Public School, private residences and businesses.
Last year, Richmond Valley Council was given approval to begin the removal and modification of trees adjacent to vulnerable properties affected by the flying-fox camp in Casino.
The aim of the habitat modification program was to provide an opportunity to increase the distance between flying foxes and residents without reducing roosting opportunities.
Work involved the trimming and removal of selected non-indigenous trees, such as Cocus Palm and Jacaranda, and many listed noxious weeds including the Chinese Celtis, Green Cestrum, Camphor Laurel, broad-leaved Privet, and Crofton Weed, and was conducted in the late afternoon and early evening while the flying foxes were out foraging. Council also improved and replaced habitat along the riverbank closer to the water, away from homes.
Undergrowth from a number of established trees near the footbridge, opposite the worst affected areas, was cleared and more natives planted to encourage the bats to set up a colony there.
Flying foxes remain protected, and under the new policy land managers will be able to get a five-year licence to:
- create buffer zones by removing vegetation to create a separation from populated areas, and to disturb animals at the boundary of the camp to encourage roosting away from human settlement;
- carry out camp disturbance or dispersal by clearing of vegetation or dispersal of animals by noise, water, smoke or light; and
- undertake camp management such as removal of trees which pose a health and safety risk, weed removal, including removal of noxious weeds, trimming of understorey vegetation, and the planting of vegetation.