Far north Queensland is home to large numbers of bats and flying foxes. If you’re lucky enough to see one up close, they’re adorable little creatures. But not everyone loves them. Fruit growers see them as a real threat to their crops and livelihoods. Flying foxes can spread the potentially deadly Hendra virus. And the old horror films have planted some spooky images of bats deep in the human psyche.
So not everyone will understand why Jenny Maclean and her team at the Tolga Bat Hospital work so hard to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured bats and flying foxes. The hospital is based near Atherton, open to visitors at certain times of year, and relies on volunteers and community support to keep going.
There’s no shortage of bats needing help. The most common problems are ticks – the same kind that make your dog or cat very sick. And then there’s encounters with tree-netting, or worse, barbed wire. On one recent mission, Tolga Bat Hospital volunteers rescued more than 100 bats that were stuck on a two kilometre stretch of barbed wire.
It is possible to make fences and nets that don’t cause so many problems for our wildlife. You might get some ideas at www.wildlifefriendlyfencing.com
Listen to an audio tour of the Tolga Bat Hospital with Jenny Maclean and the ABC’s wildlife correspondent Martin Cohen. You’ll learn a lot about bats, like their incredible heart rate, and why they hang upside down when they’re resting.