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Friday, March 22, 2013

Flying fox kills third victim

It's a tragic story.  Out of the blue, a little 8 year old boy complains of severe abdominal pain and starts convulsing and then loses consciousness.  His frantic parents rush him to hospital where he is ventilated, but doctors can't find a reason for his dire condition. Ten days later, medical specialists detect bat-borne levels of lyssavirus.  But it was too late for treatment and he eventually fell into a coma and died on 22 February 2013.  He is the third Queenslander to die from the deadly virus.

A snorkler's paradise in the Whitsundays

But the tragedy is that the little boy was bitten by a flying fox while holidaying in the Whitsundays three weeks earlier, and didn't bother to tell his parents.

We've been living with flying foxes in the city and the country for years without a problem.  If you walk around the block on hot summer nights and look up, you will see them out and about, but when daylight comes, they disappear.  

So why don't we just get rid of them?  Because they are protected and it's a criminal offence to kill them.

There has been a huge colony of flying foxes living in the Sydney Botanical Gardens for years and they've tried everything legal to get rid of them.  I once saw huge blow up dancing figures dotted throughout the gardens and loud noise was blasted through loud speakers.  But whatever they are doing, it's working because the latest report says that there are no longer any grey-headed flying foxes roosting in the gardens and on-going deterrents continue every day to make sure they don't come back.

Bob Catter, a Queensland politician, wants them culled and their legal protection status removed.  The Greens were appalled that he could even think of removing protection from these vulnerable animals, but as usual, The Greens and the general public don't always agree.

Health authorities have issued a serious warning to everyone that we need to pass on.  Although it's highly unlikely you will ever come in contact with a flying fox, if you do find one lying on the ground injured, don't be a Good Samaritan and pick it up, don't touch it.

And tell your family and everyone you know.