Flying foxes – Blackalls Park colony SOS

Flying foxes – Blackalls Park colony SOS

In December 2019 I was called on to monitor the flying fox camp at Blackalls Park, Lake Macquarie, where some 5,000 or more grey headed and a few blacks called home among swamp land there. It was also a birthing colony so we hundreds of babies as well.

The day was terrible, 45c degrees. I had watched over the camp since 10:00am that morning. I was around the back of the camp when a call came through to my phone saying that a member of the public had seen a flying fox falling to the ground.

I drove around to where it was reported and to my horror, I saw them all dropping by the hundreds. I called in a SOS to my team whom all were close by.

We had began spraying the camp from about 12:00 noon but the heat had risen so high they could no longer hang on and were all starting to fall. On my first assessment I found approximately 34 babies on the ground all together holding on to one another. It was heart breaking. There were dead and heat stressed adults everywhere.

My team of 8 began the awful task of bringing in what we could find to the staging area where we had set up our first aid tables. We first started to cool their body temperatures down and commenced rehydrating them with sub cut fluids. Within 30 minutes we had over 200 flying foxes at our staging area needing attention. Most were incredibly young along with many adults.

One team rescued, other team spayed them while a third team was at the staging site rehydrating animals in need. This was a huge task.

To my delight and surprise members of the public started stopping and assisting us carers and rescuers by delivering cool drinks, sandwiches, and cold water. Some sat for hours spraying the little ones in the baskets to help cool them. These people were wonderful.

A heat stress event with flying foxes happens so fast. Although we had everything in place that day we could still not fully stop it. Mist sprayers must be fitted in all flying fox camps if we are to provide the best welfare for these most important creatures.

That day we lost over 235 adult flying foxes with 189 babies also dead. We rescued and brought in to care over 84 babies. We worked through until dark that day and left heartbroken at the deaths we had witnessed. Measuring, weighing, and sexing these dead animals took a huge toll on my team.

We were back the next morning at 8:00am checking and rescued a further 20 babies by 12:00 noon. We had two more heat stress events at the colony in December 2019 and January 2020.

With over 5,000 animals in early December we now only have 145 flying foxes left in Blackalls Park colony…Heart breaking.

Audrey Koosmen - Disaster Coordinator
Wildlife Group
Hunter Wildlife Rescue