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  • Self-guided Walks

    Staying fit and healthy is just a walk in the Park! Download our free Centennial Park walking apps - available for Apple and Android smartphones. More info and download links here.

  • Swamp Closures

    Lachlan Swamp will close on days above 36C to minimise disturbance to the Flying Foxes. There will be no access to visitors.

  • Centennial Park History Book

    Our great new book on the history of Centennial Park is now on sale, and can be ordered online. Great gift idea. More info.

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Flying Fox

Australian bats, both megabats and microbats, are found in Centennial Parklands. Microbats are the small, commonly insectivorous bats that use echolocation – a sonar hearing system – to detect and capture their prey. Megabats, including the grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus), use their good eyesight and keen sense of smell to locate their food.

Microbats are nocturnal, emerging after sunset from tree hollows or discrete hiding places to feed on insects. These bats are tiny, with a wingspan up to the size of your hand, a body measurement between 35 - 50 mm and weighing as little as 9 grams. Microbat species detected within the Parklands include: Gould’s wattled bat (Chalinolobus gouldii), southern myotis (Myotis macropus), common bent-wing bat (Miniopterus schreibersii) and the east coast free-tailed bat (Mormopterus norfolkensis).

Large numbers of grey-headed flying foxes (5,000 to ~45,000) – also known as fruit bats – have been roosting within Lachlan swamp since early 2010. A small number of black flying foxes (P. alecto, up to ~1,000), a more tropical species, also roost within Lachlan swamp.

Around sunset each night they fly out of the swamp to feed on nectar, blossom and fruit (e.g. figs, paperbark and gum tree flowers). The number of flying foxes roosting within Lachlan swamp, and the broader Sydney region, is seasonally and annually variable. For example, in November 2014 there were ~20,000, however in November 2015 there were ~10,000 flying foxes. The number of flying foxes depends upon the amount of food available in the Sydney region compared to surrounding areas (e.g. south coast (Batemans Bay), Hunter region, northern NSW, or southeast Queensland). Flying foxes fitted with satellite transmitters have been recorded moving from the Sydney region to Melbourne (Vic), Dubbo (NSW) and Bundaberg (Qld), and everywhere in between.

Ecologically, flying foxes are important pollinators at a landscape scale (10’s to 100’s km) and seed dispersers at a local scale (up to ~10 km). Other pollinators, such as birds, bees (including native stingless bees), moths, butterflies, wasps, flies, beetles, small mammals such as gliders and the wind, operate over much smaller distances.

Bats and visitors

Visitors are often apprehensive about fruit bats because of their large numbers and shrieking calls. Human contact with fruit bats has been linked with the transmission of lyssavirus to humans.  This disease can only be transmitted through being scratched or bitten by a sick bat (flying fox or microbat). For this reason it is advised that visitors to the Parklands should never handle bats. Here is the NSW Government advice if you ever come into contact with a bat.

If left alone, fruit bats are harmless animals as they perform essential ecological roles of pollination and dispersal of tree seeds along the eastern Australian coastline. However, despite their fundamental ecological role, fruit bats are often the focus or misdirected and ignorant perceptions. Many believe the Hollywood-esque idea that all bats are vision-impaired, blood-sucking predators from the wildest depths of the earth.

Ironically, a close-up encounter with these supposedly fearful beasts, often reveals quite the opposite. Many people find their fox-like faces quite endearing, showing cute wiggly ears and a wide-eyed expression. Contrary to popular belief, fruit bats have very good eyesight.

So next time you hear the flap of a batwing in the trees, take a moment to consider these night-time natives from a different angle, or for an even closer look, join a Ranger-guided tour.