Far South Coast bat plague better left alone

The following article appeared in the Merimbula News Weekly on May 6th 2016 by Melanie Leach.

Alex wiyh F.foxes 025

Alexandra Seddon, founder of Potoroo Palace Wildlife Sanctuary at Yellowpinch, gets up close and personal with a grey-headed flying fox.

Batemans Bay is going batty and residents are calling for the relocation of the 120,000-strong colony of grey-headed flying foxes that have settled in their town, but Alexandra Seddon of Potoroo Palace Wildlife Sanctuary says this will be of no use.

Around 15 years ago, Ms Seddon bought a property in Bald Hills in an attempt to be close to and protect the Pambula flying fox camp that covers about 14 hectares.

The area can quickly fill up with the small mammals as they fly up and down the east coast in search of food, mainly flowering eucalypts and rain forest fruits.

Throughout most of March and until around mid April around 100,000 flying foxes – about a quarter of the world’s flying fox population –  were living on and adjacent to Ms Seddon’s property.

While they have moved on for now, Ms Seddon said the only humane way to get rid of a flying fox colony is to simply wait for the animals to leave of their own accord.

“Asking me if I would support humans relocating flying foxes is asking me if I condone torture,” Ms Seddon said.

“Because our relocation methods really are torturing the poor things. We are saying they can’t be here but there is no where for them to go.”

Ms Seddon said the main ways the bats are relocated was through scaring them with smoke, noise, bright lights or spraying them with water.

“The problem is, once they are relocated, there is no way on knowing whether they will come back or not. They could be scaring and torturing the creatures and it may not work.

“It’s best to just leave them as the problems they cause for people are generally short-lived as they move on in every one to two months as they search of new sources of nectar and fruit.”

Aside from the large Batemans Bay colony, flying foxes are also very common in Pambula where there is a camp flying foxes have been frequenting for hundreds of years and more recently they have started roosting in Bega.

While some people claim the flying foxes are hard to live with, Ms Seddon said the animals are highly intelligent and essential to the Australian eco-system.

“It would cost billions of dollars to do the work they do with regards to seed dispersal and pollination of eucalyptus and rain forest species.”

Having loved grey-headed flying foxes for many years, Ms Seddon said she hopes people don’t take the bat problem into their own hands.

“It’s rare for them to stay in one place for a very long time, they are beautiful, intelligent creatures and it seems like they are better at living with humans than humans are living with them.”

Shadow Minister Visits Palace

penny SharpeYet another public figure was recently welcomed to Potoroo Place. This time staff were delighted to greet the Honourable Penny Sharpe, Member of the NSW Legislative Council and NSW Labour Shadow Minister for the Environment, Planning, and Heritage Departments.

Whilst dining in the park’s café; The Blue Wren, she simply couldn’t fail to enchant the staff who were fortunate enough to meet her, with her warm and friendly nature. She quickly became an easy friend.

Ms Sharpe is a strong proponent for the banning of plastic bags and has spoken out publicly about this in recent times, pushing for new policies to be introduced addressing this major concern, so it is not too surprising that she was captivated by the display outside the Blue Wren Café showing a tank full of water containing floating plastic, mimicking jellyfish. The fascinating and informative display highlights the dangers of plastic polluting our oceans and waterways and shows pictures of seabirds dying.

Ms Sharpe was also keen to discover more about how the alarming continuation of logging of the south east forests continues to impact on local koala populations. She was guided around the park by staff and enjoyed herself immensely. A highlight will surely have been when she was privileged to have a special encounter with our newest and youngest dingo resident “Wollemi”. Still only a juvenile, Wollemi delighted in bouncing and clambering all over a visitor who didn’t put up too much resistance to the lively onslaught.

After an enjoyable and rewarding time spent at Potoroo Palace she left a warm impression on staff and a parting comment in the visitors’ book “Thank you so much for doing what you do to educate, inform and protect our native wildlife. I hope I can help you do this into the future.” Penny Sharpe NSW Labour Shadow Minister for the Environment 3/2/2016


flossyThere is an astonishingly spectacular wildlife event happening on our very doorsteps – and it’s there for all to behold.

In late March this year approximately an incredible 80,000 grey headed flying-foxes were recorded camping at a very old, well established site in Pambula. Numbers were recorded by an experienced local resident who has been surveying and monitoring their fluctuating numbers for many years now. It was an extraordinary number as there are currently only 400,000 left of this species left worldwide.

The Pambula Camp came very close to destruction in 2001 when it almost became a new housing development but was saved by this same passionate local who recognized the value and significance of the site to native wildlife and was able to purchase most of the land the camp encompasses.

It is no coincidence that these heightened numbers correlate with the flowering of the bloodwood trees (corymbia gummifera) in this region. The Pambula Camp provides a sanctuary for the animals to rest during the day until they need to go searching for flowering gums and rainforest fruits – their preferred diet. Orchards will provide little interest when their true food supply Picture flying fox 008 (2)in the forests is plentiful. The introduced fruits from the northern hemisphere make a poor substitute but must suffice when there are hungry mouths in search of nourishment. It is well established that declining numbers are in part due to starvation brought on by our disappearing forests.

A local group of dedicated volunteers (always needing more), counts on the third Friday of every month at the Glebe in Bega, where there is another camp more recently established within the last 10 years. Although a newer campsite for the grey headed flying-fox, the camp can still get large numbers. The largest recording for this site was still only 30,000 back in 2012. Results contribute towards the government’s National Flying-fox Monitoring Program.

For more information or to take part in surveys, contact Lea Pinker at Potoroo Palace 6494 9053

Koalas find their Valentine at Potoroo Palace

This story was featured in the Merimbula News Weekly on February 11th 2016. Photo and article courtesy of Albert McKnight

Potoroo Palace was the site for an early Valentine’s Day romance, as the animal sanctuary is hoping that a pair of koalas will breed.

Recently, staff at the palace introduced long-time female resident Sapphire to newcomer Jimmy, and sparks began to fly.

When they first met the two began fighting and screaming leaving a lot of fur around their enclosure, but the palace’s animal welfare supervisor John Marsh said this was just part of their courtship.

Even before they came together Sapphire had eyes for Jimmy, as despite hating getting wet she would sit out in the rain to watch him in his pen.

On Wednesday, February 10, Mr Marsh said it was possible Sapphire was already pregnant, so if that was the case there could be a new baby koala at the palace by August or September.

Sapphire was born at Potoroo Palace, Yellow Pinch, five years ago.

Her mother was an 18-year-old called Susie and her father a rescue koala called Blinky – “don’t blame us for the name” –both who have since died.

When Sapphire was born a raffle was run with first prize being her naming rights and Mr Marsh said it was likely the palace would do the same thing when the new baby was born.

While she might treat Jimmy roughly, to humans she is curious and friendly – she liked to be picked up and held by staff.

Mr Marsh said staff do not hold Sapphire now as they are trying to wean her off such an action, but the cuddles started because the marsupial wanted to be reassured after her mother died –she liked to be held on the left side of a person’s body so she could feel their heartbeat.

Two-year-old Jimmy was found beside a road in the Monaro in a very weak condition and was taken to a vet in Cooma.

Mr Marsh said when a wild animal is rescued and rehabilitated it has to be known exactly where they were found for them to be released again.

As the motorists who found Jimmy dropped him at the vet and left, it was unknown where exactly he was found so he cannot be released and will stay at Potoroo Palace.

A major issue with breeding captive koalas is the lack of genetic diversity, Mr Marsh said.

Potoroo Palace was extremely excited, because Sapphire’s father was a wild animal as were both of Jimmy’s parents so that meant their offspring will be highly sought-after by other breeders.

He said it is hoped to swap the baby with a young female to continue breeding koalas.

“Once we put it out there that we’ve got these genetics, we’ll have people knocking on our door looking to swap koalas,” he said.

A koala’s gestation period is 36 days, then the jellybean-sized baby enters its mother’s pouch for six months before it emerges onto its mother’s back.

Celebrity Visits Palace