BAT WHISPERER: Noel Atkins of Ashby wants to leave the Maclean bats alone.
BAT WHISPERER: Noel Atkins of Ashby wants to leave the Maclean bats alone. Adam Hourigan

Bat whisperer offers advice on dispersal

THE flying fox furore that has gripped the Clarence Valley in recent years is all much ado about nothing in the eyes of Ashby resident Noel Atkins.

The epicentre of the fight is in Maclean, where stakeholders from all sides have offered up solutions to the issues presented by their co-habitation with humans. The topic of dispersal has hatched at least two council committees and one member of parliament even earning the moniker Batman.

Quietly observing from across the river, Mr Atkins is adamant any further dispersal efforts will be futile and a waste of resources.

"There have been so many articles in the paper about the flying foxes in Maclean,” Mr Atkins said.

"If you try to disperse them by noise or water, a week later they'll all be back again. They're spending a lot of money on all of this for nothing, because it's not going to work, I can tell you that.”

The 93-year-old knows a thing or two about the native species, too. He kept flying foxes as pets when he grew up next to a giant colony at Terranova in the Tweed Valley.

"I think I've had as much to do with flying foxes as anyone else,” Mr Atkins said. "I grew up on an adjoining farm to a camp of 2.4 million flying foxes. I spent a lot of my first 18 years in the camp around the flying foxes.

"They make beautiful pets. I'd hold up a couple of ripe bananas and three or four of them would fly over to me and wrap their wings around me.

"They're a wonderful, clean animal. I never caught anything, just a few scratches.

"They are also very necessary for the environment. They do the most pollination for native trees of any species.”

Mr Atkins is adamant there is only one sure-fire method to permanently disperse a flying fox colony - the same method eventually used to remove the camp of his childhood.

"They cut all the bangalow palms and paperbark trees down to a metre high and the flying foxes moved on to another camp about five miles away. They never came back,” he said.

"Flying foxes can't fly off the ground. They need at least a metre drop before they can fly.

"It's the only way. Every other method doesn't work because it's not permanent. They're programmed to come back to the same spot.”