GIVING flying foxes their marching orders from Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens has only shifted the problem to northern fruitgrowers, says Queensland's Growcom.
The group has called on federal and state governments through the auspices of COAG to provide funding for scientific research on flying fox management, after it was found flying foxes scared off from Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens have spread as far as Bundaberg.
Last month, the Sydney Morning Herald reported fruit bats driven from Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens had spread to Bundaberg to the north and Pambula to the south, according to data from satellite tracking devices strapped around their necks.
Authorities started playing 30 minutes of 'industrial noise' through loudspeakers to disperse more than 5000 grey-headed flying foxes roosting in the gardens.
The garden's acting executive director, Brett Summerell, said there were now no bats roosting in the dozens of damaged trees.
"We put satellite tracking devices on 100 flying foxes and we are starting to get some of that data back. What it's telling us is that they are going all over the place. It depends on where the food is, what things are flowering, what things are fruiting," he said.
Growcom CEO Alex Livingstone said the findings showed an integrated, systematic approach was needed to provide effective management of the animal, rather than just moving the problem around.
"There is a clear need for more research into the ecology of flying foxes in order to ensure the proper management of the animal, particularly now that it is a known carrier of viruses such as Hendra, which could threaten human populations directly if the virus mutates," he said.
"Moreover, in the past several years, damage by flying foxes has been significant in stone fruit, lychee, longan, rambutan and table grapes crops, severely affecting the incomes of growers we represent. The fruit industry has repeatedly asked government for significant investment in addressing flying fox management, including funds for population monitoring and ongoing research into flying fox behaviour.
"We have also repeatedly sought research into alternative crop-protection methods and financial incentives to maximise implementation of canopy netting where it is feasible.
"Other methods of management, such as dispersal using noise or lights, simply move the problem to another area. That's clearly not effective management and may be counter-productive from the perspective of disease management.
"Growcom and the fruit industry have demonstrated a serious commitment to seeking alternative, non-lethal means of managing flying foxes in fruit crops. We would like to see this matched by a serious commitment from state and federal governments into scientific research in managing the animal.
"If this can't be taken seriously as a major agricultural problem, then it should be urgently considered under national health regulations."