TOURIST DRAWCARD: Bats flying over the Pacific Highway at Farlows Lane near Maclean.
TOURIST DRAWCARD: Bats flying over the Pacific Highway at Farlows Lane near Maclean. Adam Hourigan

Flying foxes could be key to unlocking eco-tourism potential

FLYING foxes might be a pest to live with but they could be part of unlocking the potential of our region to the nation, and the world.

Ecologist and Councillor Greg Clancy said the eco-tourism market isn't as big as it could be - but cautioned the industry needed to grow sustainably.

"We are in a rich area, there is potential, but we don't want to love it to death," he said.

Cr Clancy runs a small touring business and takes occasional groups to explore the flora and fauna of the region.

He said the Valley is in an area between the Queensland tropics and cooler southern regions making the Valley home to extraordinary wildlife.

"We get species that are typical in tropical north Queensland and we get species typical in southern NSW and South Australia and Victoria occurring here as well," he said.

"If we go out for a day tour birdwatching we often get over 100 species of birds in a day in this area."

Cr Clancy helped organise March's Big Bat and Wildlife Festival, an ode to the misunderstood flying foxes that make for a spectacular show as they take to the night skies.

"The interest there was really great, at this stage we attracted mostly local people but as it grows it has got potential to be a well known festival," he said.

Festival co-organiser Elizabeth Parker echoed his sentiment and revealed there were plans to bring the festival back in 2020 as a "broader environmental festival" which could highlight the many gems on offer in the region.

Ms Parker said the festival would be able to point tourists in the direction of tourist destinations such as the Clarence River and Yuraygir National Park.

She said many tourists travelled the country in search of bat festivals and she hoped the Clarence Valley's could have a place on the map.

Ms Parker said the Clarence Valley was "found by accident" by grey nomads and tourists heading up north to escape the cold and hadn't been heavily advertised.

She said the next festival would also point to the potential of exploratory mining on the river and how it could affect the catchment.