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Flying foxes

In June 2012 the flying-fox colony was dispersed to conserve the living botanical collection, this action was approved by the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments. The flying-foxes roosting behaviour naturally defoliates the leaves from the branches they roost upon, and this can lead to poor health in trees and palms, sometimes resulting in their death. Within the Garden over 30 trees and 30 palms died due to defoliation.

Where to see flying-foxes?

In the greater Sydney region there are currently 17 flying-fox colonies. The two easiest colonies to visit are located at Lachlan swamp, within Centennial Park (4km from Sydney CBD), and Parramatta river, within Parramatta Park (close to train station).

What makes flying-foxes important to protect?

Flying-foxes are important pollinators of the eucalypt forests and woodlands of eastern and northern Australia. Their main food source is the protein-rich pollen produced by Eucalyptus flowers. Eucalyptus trees need pollen from other trees of their species (out-crossing) to produce fertile seed, and the largely nomadic flying-foxes are very good at providing this transport service. While feeding on nectar and pollen in flowers, pollen grains stick to the fur of the flying-foxes. Some pollen is eaten during grooming, but some is carried on the fur to other flowers to fertilise the ovules which then develop into seeds. This pollen may be carried for very long distances (up to 100 km in one night) and across cleared land, which provides an essential genetic link between fragmented patches of native vegetation. Other pollinators, such as birds, bees (including native stingless bees), moths, butterflies, wasps, flies, beetles, other small mammals such as gliders and the wind, operate over much smaller areas.

Through pollination and seed dispersal, flying-foxes help to provide habitat for other flora and fauna species and also help to sustain Australia’s hardwood timber, honey and native plant industries. But to be effective in this role, flying-foxes need to be in large numbers.