MORE than 50 grey-headed flying foxes have been found dead in the dense Queensland bush after locals heard gunshots ringing out weeks ago.
RSPCA Queensland spokesman Michael Beatty said the rare bats, which are also Australia’s largest, suffered an “agonising death” because the gunshots did not immediately kill most of them.
Last week, residents in the Sunshine Coast town of Conondale reported the gun shots to local bat rescuer Sammy Ringer and, after enlisting the help of a few local children, she went to investigate.
What Ms Ringer found was one of the most awful things she’d come across, describing it as a “horrific scene”.
“As we got further into the colony, there was a pretty horrendous smell of bats that had been shot previously,” she told the ABC.
“They had been lying on the ground for maybe a week or two,” she added, sadly saying they just “kept coming across more dead bats”.
The wildlife activist, who has been rescuing bats for decades, said she expected the death toll to rise.
“When you walk into a colony, the bats start to fly around and it is very difficult to work out how many orphaned bats there might be,” Ms Ringer said.
“Luckily I had a couple of kids with me whose eyes are sharper than mine. A little boy said there was one hanging up a tree which we were able to rescue. This guy was no longer hanging on to its mother and it would have been around four weeks old. Without its mother, it would die as the mother would still be feeding it. It would probably have had another three or four weeks before it could be independent,” she said.
Eventually, the group managed to rescue two baby bats but Ms Ringer said they left probably dozens behind.
“There were that many mothers dead, there were going to babies hanging in the trees. We had to leave probably dozens of babies to die,” Ms Ringer told the corporation.
The Queensland RSPCA are now involved because of the “considerable suffering” the bats went through before their death. The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) is also investigating.
“We are talking about obviously animals that weren’t killed instantly. There were babies that were still alive with dead mothers,” RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty told AFP.
“People need to be aware that the flying foxes are protected … without flying foxes there would be no pollination in the forests.”
Killing flying foxes is illegal in Victoria however people can kill them legally in NSW and Queensland with a license.
The grey-headed flying fox is listed as “vulnerable” on Australia’s environmental protection list and the maximum penalty for killing 10 or more of the rare bat is a $126,150 fine or a year behind bars.