One of the colonies of flying foxes residing in Warwick trees.
One of the colonies of flying foxes residing in Warwick trees. Shannon Newley

Flying fox health fears

THE branches of Warwick trees have been breaking under the weight of a large flying fox colony amid fresh concerns about the potential health effects after a horse near Beaudesert died from the Hendra virus earlier this week.

The Hendra virus is fatal for both horses and humans with four Queensland vets dying after contracting since it was first detected in 1994.

One colony of the flying mammals has taken up residence on Victoria St near Queens Park forcing horse dentist Merv Mangan to move three animals that were being house in a paddock there.

Mr Mangan said the animals had caused him a great deal of worry and in an area populated with horses, the people of Warwick should share those concerns.

“In a city where horses are such an important part of the industry and to allow them to hang around while the industry suffers, I have a real problem with that,” he said.

“Everyone can talk about it but when someone from Warwick dies or gets very sick, it’ll be a different story.”

Mr Mangan said he wasn’t sure when he would be able to put his horses into the paddock.

“Luckily I have another paddock but we just don’t know how long the germ stays around.”

Mr Mangan’s occupation sees him in and out of different properties working with a number of horses and while he had concerns of over the exposure to the fatal disease, he said it was just apart of the territory.

“That just comes with the job and the fact is there is always that possibility,” he said.

Mr Mangan said there were ten of thousands of flying foxes living in the area at the end of Guy St.

“It takes them about 40 minutes to completely vacate the area in the evening when they are flying off to get food,” he said.

Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) Mayor Ron Bellingham said he was aware the virus – which is transmitted from flying foxes to horses and then to humans – had killed another horse this week and was worried.

“I am very concerned, the community of Allora has been significantly impacted for some time by flying foxes and it is a constant problem in the fruiting season for Stanthorpe,” he said.

“The concern is the transmission of the disease, it is bad enough as far as the horses go but the threat to humans; surely we have to be able to humanely move them on.”

He said there were restrictions in place because the species was protected but the council had informed the State Government of the issue.

“There has been a dialogue with State Government for sometime now but nothing has happened, in fact there doesn’t seem to be a solution,” he said.

“Beyond the economic issue, it’s the human issue and the threat of the disease and we are very conscience of that.”

Chris Reardon of Warwick Vet Services said the Hendra virus made him feel like “a canary down a mineshaft”.

“The level of transmission is low but the outcomes can be fatal,” he said.

He said it wasn’t known exactly how the disease was transferred from flying foxes to horses but the animals needed to be in close proximity to each other.

Late yesterday afternoon a spokeswoman for the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) said they had contacted the council to discuss options with the latest colony.

“DERM has talked to council about this colony and will be undertaking surveys,” she said.

“Officers will then be talking to the council about options for actions.

“Flying foxes are protected under the Nature Conservation Act. The department is committed to working with communities to ensure flying foxes in urban areas are managed safely and humanely.”

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