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Hanging around, but on the move, too

Date

Tom McIlroy

Bats in the trees at Commonwealth Park near stage 88, Canberra.

Bats in the trees at Commonwealth Park near stage 88, Canberra. Photo: Melissa Adams

Canberra's bats might not always be the easiest animals to love, but local advocates want the city's residents to take another look.

With hundreds of grey-headed flying foxes taking up residence in Commonwealth Park, a new technological search is under way to find out which other species live in the ACT, record their eating habits and nighttime activities.

ACT Batwatch has launched a new smartphone project to record the movements of the nocturnal mammals.

Co-ordinator Michael Pennay said using the free iNaturalist application, anyone can record bat movements around Canberra. ''We know they camp at Commonwealth Park, but any information recorded by the public will help us better understand where bats go in Canberra,'' he said.

''In 2010 the bat population stayed in Canberra all through the winter period and we believe now that they migrate based on the availability of food. We know that bats will travel anywhere between Melbourne and Rockhampton for the right food.''

To mark this month's Australasian Bat Night celebrations, a presentation at the Australian National University Gould Building on Thursday night will include information from the Field Naturalists Society of Canberra and Australasian Bat Society.

The event, in the BOZO seminar room in building 116, begins at 7.30pm.

On Sunday from 6pm, a special picnic and urban bat walk will take place at Commonwealth Park's Regatta Point, with participants invited to view the bats' evening fly-out and learn more about the local population from experts Darren Le Roux and Maree Kerr.

The group will conduct a gentle walk around the park to detect microbats.

Dr Pennay said the recent death of an eight-year-old in Brisbane had again raised concerns about the safety of bats living around humans.

The boy became ill after contracting lyssavirus from a scratch or bite by a bat. Dr Pennay said fewer than 1 per cent of bats carry Australian bat lyssavirus.

''People certainly shouldn't handle bats and if they are scratched or bitten, it is important to seek medical attention,'' Dr Pennay said.

Last year, concerns were raised that Australian bats could suffer from a move to give state governments increased environmental powers.

ACT Batwatch, which conducts eight surveys of Canberra''s bat population each year, also loans electronic detectors that record ultrasonic bat calls.

The data can be used to determine which species live in the area.

For more information, visit ausbats.org.au.

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