A management plan for the thousands of grey-headed flying-foxes which roost in Commonwealth Park each year is not about relocating or culling them, as numbers climb, according to the National Capital Authority.
The plan is also not a precursor to events such as Floriade, Skyfire or Spilt Milk being moved out of the park, even though they have been labelled a high to medium risk to the flying foxes and their camp.
Floriade and Spilt Milk occur during the peak birthing times for the flying-fox, presenting a "high risk". Australia Day, Skyfire and Symphony in the Park occur during peak conception times and are listed as a "medium risk" to the native bat.
The draft management plan recommends mitigation measures such as :
- Floriade reconfiguring displays so they do not impinge the camp;
- having a vaccinated expert on site to rescue flying-foxes who might be spooked during the Spilt Milk or Skyfire events;
- ensuring aircraft and hot-air balloons observe a 200m exclusion zone from the camp. The report says flying-foxes are the most common species to be struck by aircraft in Australia and in, up to 20 per cent of the cases, cause damage to the aircraft
- keeping food vendors out of the camp area and
- monitoring of major events by experts to evaluate their impact on the camp.
The native grey-headed flying-fox is protected, listed as a vulnerable species, and in general decline in Australia, but not in Commonwealth Park, with more than 8000 of the animals recorded in the park in March, by the Australasian Bat Society. They have been as low as 5000 since the colony was first recorded in 2003.
Once the population in Commonwealth Park reaches more than 10,000 in two years, the colony could be classed as a "nationally important camp" under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
If that does happen, future events that may cause a disturbance to the flying-foxes could be referred to the federal environment minister or department for assessment. The flying-fox camp, near the Regatta Point end, occupies 1.47ha of the 34.25ha Commonwealth Park.
The NCA's manager of open space Michelle Jeffrey said the authority wanted to a management plan in place to protect the flying-foxes and their habit and to mitigate against disruptions to the breeding cycle.
The authority also wanted to gauge public perceptions of the flying-foxes via an online survey.
"We're not reducing numbers, we're not moving them on," Mrs Jeffrey said.
"Commonwealth Park seems to be an ideal place for a camp because there is limited interaction with residents, for example.
"They obviously like it here, because they're growing in numbers and returning every year. We want to develop a management plan that helps us co-habitat the space.
"We want to be able to do what we do in Commonwealth Park and want the flying-foxes to do what they do in Commonwealth Park."
The park hosts more than 40 events each year. The report suggests activities such as fireworks and cannons cause stress to the flying foxes and "should be considered a high-risk activity".
While the flying-foxes head north for the winter, they are most prolific in the park in spring and summer when they are pregnant and give birth, arriving in September and leaving in April
The draft document says the numbers of flying-foxes in Commonwealth Park are likely to reach more 10,000.
"We're not at that numbers yet but we want to find out what reactions the bats have to various activities we have in Commonwealth Park, including our own management of the park," Mrs Jeffrey said.
"For example, there's a lot of noise at the moment with leaf cleaning. What noises do they tolerate at different times of the day throughout their life cycle? We need to put in some place some evidence-based procedures within that management plan to help protect the flying foxes as well as protect their habitat."
Mrs Jeffrey said reactions via the online survey were about helping to shape an education campaign for the public to understand why the flying-foxes were ecologically important. Workshops will also be held on August 21 with details of how to book here.
"They are important for the flora. They spread seeds and pollinate our native flora so they're very important for native rainforests, for example," she said.
- The flying-fox survey is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ncaghff.