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Vaccine renews Hendra debate

A SOUTHERN Downs resident and 10 other landowners have applied for government permits to shoot flying-foxes, the endangered animal responsible for the spread of Hendra virus.

Flying-fox specialists told a Queensland parliamentary committee the education and risk mitigation were far superior methods of dealing with the animals than killing or dispersing them.

The culling debate was re-sparked following the announcement a Hendra vaccine for horses should be released by Christmas.

Department of Environment and Heritage protection manager wildlife Mike Devery said there was a criteria for the permits.

"Lethal DMPs are granted only to commercial growers and only when demonstrated that other non-harmful methods of controlling flying-foxes have been used," he said.

"It sets strict requirements that growers must meet to be eligible for a permit, including that they will continue to use non-harmful methods of deterring flying foxes. A limited quota has been put in place and agreed by the Commonwealth Government to ensure there is no impact on the long-term survival of the four flying-fox species that can damage crops."

Biosecurity Queensland's Dr Field Hume told the committee the Hendra vaccine for horses would not only stop animals being infected, usually through bat urine in their feed, but from passing on the virus to humans.

The Hendra virus has caused more than 70 horse fatalities and four human deaths since 1994.

Dr Hume said the single most effective method of reducing risk was excluding horses from underneath trees where flying foxes were feeding. He said 2011 brought more horse infections than ever before but there were no human cases.

Topics:  equine, flying foxes, hendra vaccine, hendra virus, horses


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