Bats sit in the trees above the carpark at Maclean High School.
Bats sit in the trees above the carpark at Maclean High School. Adam Hourigan

Ecologist says relocating bats is a 'false hope'

POLITICIANS need to stop giving Maclean residents false hope that it is possible to disperse the controversial flying fox camp near the Maclean High School, says Greens councillor and ecologist Dr Greg Clancy.

A public meeting has been called this Monday in Maclean to discuss ways to deal with the colony, which has swelled to record numbers in recent days with an influx of little red flying foxes.

But Dr Clancy said claims from politicians including Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons that the bats could be moved were not helpful.

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and Clarence Valley Council Mayor Jim Simmons talk at the bottom of Hillcrest where the bats population has taken over the trees. Clarence Valley Council has received a grant from the state government to manage the bat population in the area.
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and Clarence Valley Council Mayor Jim Simmons talk at the bottom of Hillcrest where the bats population has taken over the trees. Clarence Valley Council has received a grant from the state government to manage the bat population in the area. Adam Hourigan

"It's frustrating because it's offering false hope to Maclean people," he said.

"It's the sort of message that comes from politicians and not from scientists.

"They like good simple answers to complex issues."

Dr Clancy said it would be possible to disperse the bats, but it would be costly, labour intensive and stressful for the bats.

"If every time you saw a bat, you chased it away, they would keep away, but the moment the effort stopped the bats would return," he said.

"The effort to maintain that level of dispersal would cost millions of dollars.

"There has been a bat colony here for possibly 1000 years and at least 100 years that we know of."

Dr Clancy said the practical response to the problem was to move the people away from the bats.

"Closing the school and maybe buying a couple of houses near the colony would be the best solution," he said.

"There is no doubt the bats pose a genuine problem, for the schoolkids and people living near the school, but they've got to stop coming up with solutions that are not at all practical."

Bats fly over Maclean: A swarm of bats filled the night sky over Maclean last night
Bats fly over Maclean: A swarm of bats filled the night sky over Maclean last night

He said the council's Flying Fox Working Group was doing what it could with limited resources.

"I would be more than happy if the State Government stepped in and relieved the situation by moving the school," he said.

Maclean High School principal Robert Perl has warned students against taking part in Monday's meeting, which is planned for 9am.

Mr Perl sent a letter to parents on Monday saying that students should only take part in actions outside school time.

He noted the school is not an agency that makes decision about bats.

"The school has done a great deal over the years to reduce the effects of the flying foxes' presence on the school, but does not have authority outside the school grounds," the letter said.

100,000 bats fill Grafton skyline at dusk: A serial pest or tourist attraction? More than 100,000 flying foxes have called Susan Island home this summer, resulting in spectacular scenes every night at dusk when they leave their camp and fly east along the Clarence River and over South Grafton to forage for food.
100,000 bats fill Grafton skyline at dusk: A serial pest or tourist attraction? More than 100,000 flying foxes have called Susan Island home this summer, resulting in spectacular scenes every night at dusk when they leave their camp and fly east along the Clarence River and over South Grafton to forage for food.