Mayor supports bat cull

MAYOR Ron Bellingham has thrown his support behind calls for a flying fox cull after the count of Hendra virus quarantined properties rose to eight yesterday.

“I believe for the safety of the community we need a more proactive approach in the way that we deal with flying foxes,” he said.

“Despite what is being said in some circles, there has been a proliferation of colonies in the area. There are more flying foxes around now than I have seen in my entire life.”

Cr Bellingham said he took no joy in the culling of animals, but human safety had to come first.

“It's matter of urgency,” he said.

“It is extremely difficult to deal with as the State Government department in charge are loath to allow either culling or relocation as a management tool,” he said.

Cr Bellingham said the council was at a standstill until the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) advised them of potential options.

“I understand they inspected the colonies last week and I am very concerned about the proximity of one colony to the students at the school (Warwick State High School),” he said.

He said he was especially concerned because of the high number of horses in the region and the potential for the flying foxes to spread the deadly Hendra virus, which transferred from bats to horses and then to humans.

“We are just plain lucky we haven't had an incident where someone has become infected,” he said.

“We have a lot to learn about this virus because the biggest fear I have is it could mutate and there has not be a lot of success in treating once a human has it.

“We know the ability for it to transfer through horses, but could it transfer another way?”

He said despite the species now being protected he thought culling could still be used be as a management tool.

“I'd say it somewhat reluctantly, but what other method have we got?” he said.

Local horse dentist Merv Mangan agreed a cull was in order.

“We don't need as many as we have,” he said.

“There are a lot more than any other time in my life.”

He said a beautification project at the Gold Coast had seen flying fox habitats cut down, which had alleviated some of the problem.

“But I don't see why we should have to cut down the trees,” he said. “It's not the trees that are the problem; it's what's in them.”

The Daily News was still waiting for a response from DERM in regard to the call for a flying fox cull when we went to print last night.

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