WILDLIFE WARRIOR: Wildlife carer Connie Kerr of Camira with Bobbly a Little Red Flying Fox.
WILDLIFE WARRIOR: Wildlife carer Connie Kerr of Camira with Bobbly a Little Red Flying Fox. David Nielsen

Bad rap for flying foxes not deserved, says wildlife carer

WHEN people talk about fruit bats you will often hear words like "nuisance", "diseased" or "pest".

But Connie Kerr believes they are none of those things - just misunderstood.

As a wildlife carer, Ms Kerr is an advocate for the conservation and protection of the creatures.

She will teach other prospective carers how to handle flying foxes at a workshop coming to Ipswich.

Ms Kerr, 48, said fruit bat numbers were in rapid decline with two of the four species found in Queensland already federally listed as "vulnerable to extinction".

"In Australia, the grey-headed flying fox population was believed to number in the millions in the 1960s," she said.

"Now their numbers have dwindled to about 300,000."

She said the species was a victim of harassment and loss of habitat.

Ms Kerr said it was important to ensure the safety of flying foxes because they were crucial to keeping native forests healthy.

"Without them, many Australian trees, such as eucalyptus, might not survive," she said.

"Fruit bats are Australia's only nocturnal, long-distance pollinators and seed dispersers.

"And they create the eucalypt forests that koalas need to survive - so no bats, no koalas."

As the vice-president of Bat Conservation and Rescue Queensland (BCRQ), Ms Kerr will co-present a bat rescue and new carer training workshop on Sunday.

The session will teach the techniques used for netting, barbed wire entrapment rescues, bat handling, medications and more.

Ms Kerr said flying foxes received a lot of negative attention in the media with stories surrounding diseases like the hendra virus and lyssavirus or colonies roosting in built-up areas.

"When it comes to bat-borne diseases though, the truth is more people die from dog attacks than they do from bats," she said.

"And in regards to the colonies, they've set up in built-up areas because we've cleared too many trees through land development and forced them to find another food source."

Ms Kerr said she hoped workshops like the one on Sunday would help educate and change people's perception about bats and even inspire them to join the BCRQ.

Another workshop will take place on September 29.

All sessions will be held at the RSPCA Queensland's Wacol facility.

For more information or to register email secretary@bats.org.au



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