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05 Jan, 2018

Hot weather notice: Grey-Headed Flying Foxes and Microbats

If you come across any small or large bats on the ground, please contact Fauna Rescue 24-hour helpline on 0474 204 617.

Bats play an integral role in the ecology of the natural environment and are protected in Australia under relevant State and Commonwealth law. In metropolitan Adelaide and surrounding areas, the most common species are Grey-Headed Flying-Foxes and Microbat species.

Healthy bats are naturally shy and will not approach humans or allow themselves to be handled. However, during summer it’s more common to see bats, particularly young flying foxes (pups), on the ground as they are sensitive to the heat, resulting in some bats falling from trees.

There are currently approximately 10,000 bats in Botanic Park, so the likelihood of a significant number of pups dying over summer is high. Temperatures over 40 degrees generally pose the greatest heat stress risk to pups.

Bats can carry a range of serious diseases, including Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL), which is a rabies-like disease that can be transmitted to humans if they are bitten or scratched by an infected bat.

Less than one per cent of Australian bats carry ABL and no cases have been recorded in South Australia, however there have been three reported cases of ABL in Australia since 1996, all of which were fatal. The last case involved a child and occurred in Queensland in 2013.

SA Health have advised members of the public to contact the Fauna Rescue’s 24-hour bat helpline if they see living (or dead) bats on the ground.

For more information about bat safety, visit SA Health’s website.

For more information about Grey-Headed Flying Foxes.

Further Background Information

  • The Grey Headed Flying Fox (GHFF) is Australia's largest bat.
  • Its diet consists of fruit/nectar.
  • The range in Australia increasing due to habitat/foraging areas loss.
  • It is a protected species under SA National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, therefore management is carefully regulated.  
  • The Flying Foxes are monitored by DEWNR and SA Health.
  • Hot weather can cause fatalities.
  • SA Health is providing a media release and public health information advising people not to touch bats of any kind.
  • Some flying foxes carry diseases, including Australian Bat Lyssavirus (transmittable through direct contact with the GHFF) and the Hendra virus (transmittable through direct contact with horses).  Both viruses can cause death or other injury. 
  • Cases of humans contracting Australian Bat Lyssavirus are extremely rare and there are no known cases of humans contracting the virus in South Australia.  The virus is transmitted by flying fox saliva coming into contact with an open wound or mucus membrane such as the eyes, nose or mouth.  There is no evidence that humans can catch the virus directly from flying foxes. 
  • For more information about bat safety, visit SA Health’s website
  • For more information about grey-headed flying foxes, visit www.naturalresources.sa.gov.au
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