Flying foxes: the big picture

ENCOURAGING fruit producers to report even the smallest sightings of flying foxes is crucial to building up a database of colonies in the area, and ultimately giving growers more power to control the protected species, according to NSW Farmers.

NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said the organisation would be working closely with producers over the coming weeks.

“We will be visiting properties and building up a big picture of flying fox activity in the Orange area in the lead-up to the apple picking season,” she said.

Ms Simson said how to deal with flying foxes descending en masse to local orchards had been a learning experience for all stakeholders. 

NSW Farmers representatives met with producers, member for Orange Andrew Gee and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) on Wednesday to  try and nut out a solution to the flying  fox problem. 

“I know there is a lot we can take away from what has happened in Orange,” she said.

“Growers need to get on the phone quickly and report.”

Ms Simson said growers needed to be ready to act by applying for culling licences in the event the flying foxes arrived, and by reporting all sightings so an accurate database of activity can be compiled by the National Parks and Wildlife Service who administer the management of the native species under legislation.

“I think too it is import that we have the discussion around what happens on public holidays with emergency lines for reporting as was the case in Orange over the Christmas and new year period,” Ms Simson said.

She said the push to secure state government funding for netting was a positive move.

“It has worked extremely well on the north coast where the growers managed to get that funding,” she said.

“But that is long term.”

Ms Simson said NPWS representatives being able to come on to properties as soon as flying foxes are sighted would give them some flexibility when numbers are determined.

“Growers can apply for a licence if they have flying foxes destroying their fruit but there may be the possibility that more than one licence can be issued for a property depending on the numbers,” she said.

Following Wednesday’s meeting Mr Gee said he would work on a submission to secure net funding for the area to protect fruit. He said if that wasn’t successful he would introduce a private member’s bill to improve the licensing process for culling flying foxes that threaten growers’ livelihoods.

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