Going batty at Parra Park
2 May 2018
How do you feel about sharing Parramatta Park with the Grey-headed Flying Fox colonies? They are a nocturnal species that camp in large numbers so they can make quite an impact in urban areas, particularly as they sleep during the day and fly out at dusk to feed. So why should we look after them?
Simply put, the Grey-headed Flying Fox is an endangered species, listed as vulnerable, which means that there are less and less of them around. Humans have destroyed much of their natural habitats and foraging sites and development has encroached on their remaining Sydney camps so flying foxes and humans have begun to come into more and more conflict.
One of Australia’s largest bats, an adult Grey-headed Flying-Fox can have a wing span of around a metre, reach a length of up to 30cm and weigh up to a kilogram. They are easily spotted by the mantle of red fur around their necks.
It is in the north-east of Parramatta Park near the River that a population of 5000 –10,000 individuals (and sometimes even more) has set up home. This population is looked after by the Parramatta Park Trust which is working hard to ensure the protection and conservation of these cute fuzzy animals, the riverside vegetation they roost in, and the People’s Park they call home.
Without Grey-headed Flying Foxes, many Australian native trees would be in danger of dying out because they depend on these animals for pollination (particularly gum trees) and seed dispersal (particularly fig trees). It is up to us to ensure the survival of these plants by caring for these remarkable creatures. We all work together to make a successful community.
Remember too, that it’s likely that colonies of the Grey-headed Flying Fox have called Parramatta Park and it’s surrounds home long before the site became a People’s Park 160 years ago. A 1791 book An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales describes these fascinating mammals on the Parramatta River, which, along with the riverside vegetation, provides a fantastic habitat with roosting trees, access to water and easy fly-out spaces.
What can you do to help the Grey-headed Flying Fox colony in north-east Parramatta Park? The best thing we can all do is to leave the colony in peace. It’s a tall order, considering they sleep when we’re awake and vice versa. This makes conservation efforts difficult too. But if we pay particular attention to keeping our activities to a minimum during birthing and ‘creching’ time (October to April – a time when baby bats are left in the colony alone while mum and dad are foraging for food) then our species will make as little impact as possible on the other species that share our Park.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Howell