Residents of Charles Towers say they’re scared to go outside, according to a Facebook group created to “help fight to get rid of the plague of bats that have invaded their township.”
“Kids are locked indoors and can’t go outside because of the stench and batshit everywhere,” says a post on the Facebook page.
“This is immoral and just totally wrong and the Government of Australia must get real and address this serious health issue.”
In a public notice, the local council states that a risk assessment determined “the closeness of the flying fox roost to the pool facilities may pose an adverse risk to the public.”
Another notice notes the risk of falling tree limbs as a reason to shut a park “due to a significant increase in flying fox numbers.”
Protesters took to the streets last Friday with signs reading “we want our town back” and “government must help.”
The local council seems unsure of how to handle the influx of the winged mammals.
Flying foxes — which among the largest bats in the world— are a protected native Australian species and it’s illegal to cause them harm.
Local officials have launched a poll to find out how locals would like to deal with the bats: take no action, relocate the flying foxes, or reduce the bats’ impact by confining them to certain areas using netting and barriers. The poll also gauges residents’ concern for disease transmission, noise, mess, and odour.
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The bats can be carriers of two pathogenic viruses, including Australian Bat Lyssavirus which can lead to paralysis, delirium, convulsions and even death.
Charter Towers Mayor Liz Schmidt told the Townsville Bulletin that the local council has been working to find a solution, but is restricted by federal protection guidelines.
“Nobody seems to be able to give us any answers,” she said. “It’s an absolute disaster, the stuff of nightmares.”
Schmidt plans to present the poll results to Queensland’s premier and environment minister in the hopes of assistance from the state on the infestation.
Ecologist Jon Luly told abc.net.au that the bats have likely settled in the area due to the abundance of flowering eucalypts, noting that bats play an important role as pollinators.
Luly suggests residents leave the bats alone, and predicts they will likely move on in a few days or weeks.