Horse body wants bat study

THERE should be an independent study into bat populations, says Kent Wells, chairman of the Queensland Horse Alliance.

Mr Wells, who lives in Boonah but previously resided in Warwick and is heavily involved in polocrosse, said he had never seen so many bats in either area.

He said while the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) said there was no population increase in the protected species it was clear there were more around and independent study was needed to determine the numbers.

He said horse owners were worried about the current outbreak of the Hendra virus – spread from bats to horses and then horses to humans – but he hoped it wouldn’t affect the industry.

“It doesn’t spread like the equine influenza and we as an organisation do have health declarations for events,” he said.

“We are confident competitors know their animals well enough to know if they are not feeling well.

“And they won’t take a sick horse to an event.”

General manager Conservation Strategy and Planning for DERM Clive Cook said they were discussing the Warwick flying fox colony with the council but culling wouldn’t be the answer.

“As an essential forest pollinator, flying foxes are an important part of our natural environment,” he said.

“They are a protected native species, and as they are highly mobile and widespread, it would not be feasible to cull them even if environmentally appropriate.

“Attempting to cull, or disperse flying foxes in one location, could simply transfer the issue to another location.”

He said flying foxes moved around the countryside following food sources but weren’t a direct threat to humans. “There is no indication that numbers of flying foxes have increased overall in Australia,” he said.

“There is no evidence that Hendra virus can be contracted directly from flying foxes by humans.

“But humans have contracted Hendra from infected horses and Biosecurity Queensland provides advice on how to reduce the risk of Hendra virus infection in horses, and subsequent exposure of people.”

He said people should steer clear of the native animals.

“Flying fox bites are rare, but anyone who receives a bite or scratch from a flying fox should seek medical advice,” he said.

“If a sick, injured or orphaned flying fox is found, it should be reported to the department’s hotline on 1300 130 372, the RSPCA 1300 ANIMAL, or a local wildlife care group.

Biosecurity Queensland was continuing to test and monitor 83 horses potentially exposed to Hendra virus in six locations throughout the state.

Queensland chief veterinary officer Dr Rick Symons said it would take three rounds of negative test results to clear each property of Hendra virus infection.

“No test results from the horses we are currently monitoring have returned as positive and none of these animals are currently showing any clinical signs of Hendra virus infection,” he said.

“As has been our approach throughout these incidents, we will keep the community informed of the progress of the results and of any significant findings.

Biosecurity Queensland was receiving about 25 samples for testing per week from locations throughout the state.

Before the outbreak, Biosecurity Queensland received five samples per week.

Dr Symons urged horse owners, horse event managers and anyone else in the community with questions to attend a Hendra virus information session.

A session will be held tonight at Boonah State School Activity Hall, Park Street, Boonah, from 6pm-pm.

Due to limited seats, please phone 13 25 23 to book. For more information about Hendra virus contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23, visit www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au or Biosecurity Queensland on Facebook.



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