Cafe stung by record bat colony wants long-term solution
A FAMILY-OWNED business in the popular Queens Park has been significantly impacted by the closure of tourist attractions due to the record number of flying foxes roosting in the park.
The Ipswich Nature Centre and the bottom section of Nerima Gardens are closed due to more than 22,000 bats setting up in trees in the park.
Both facilities are located in Queens Park.
Ipswich City Council says its hands are tied when it comes to moving on the flying foxes and the facilities remain closed as a safety measure.
Two trees have already fallen under the weight of the bats and council officers have reported “many more” trees with hanging limbs.
The nature centre is worth about $3 million to the Ipswich economy with more than 140,000 people visiting in 2019.
Two flying foxes infected with Australian Bat Lyssavirus were found at nearby Ipswich Central State School in February.
Queens Park Cafe operations manager Ashleigh Ford said the centre’s closure two weeks ago has had a big impact on the business.
Parts of Nerima Gardens were first closed at the end of December.
Ms Ford said this had noticeably kept away day-trippers during the week and families on the weekends, which was the bulk of their customers.
“People are quite cautious and a little afraid of the virus that’s been found in some of the flying foxes,” she said.
“Without those facilities it does affect our service levels quite a bit.
“We get a lot of retirement villages.
“We had a booking of 50 people we had to cancel because they wanted to take their clients out on a day trip out here mainly to see the nature centre because that’s the main attraction in the park.
“We’ve lost a few bookings due to the closure of those facilities.”
It is not a new problem for the cafe; the nature centre was forced to close for more than a month in early 2019.
“To be honest we haven’t had much communication (from the council) in regards to what they’re doing to fix it and the kind of timeline they’re working on,” Ms Ford said.
“We would like to see some sort of timeline as to when they expect that these facilities are going to be reopened and when they’re going to find a solution for this problem.
“In the past it’s been a lot of short term fixes so they’ve used high frequency noises and the drums to move the bats on.
“I think one of the main issues is that the bats have nowhere else to go and it’s just with updated infrastructure around Ipswich and those surrounding suburbs, they’re lost their normal habitat and they’ve got to find a new home here. It’s not their fault.
“I think a short-term fix is not going to do anything. We need a long-term solution.”
Ipswich division 4 councillor and Environment and Sustainability Committee chair Russell Milligan said the bats could not be disturbed as they were protected under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992.
“The number of flying foxes on site have caused safety issues due to the low elevation of their roosting, which increases the risk of a flying fox coming into contact with a visitor,” he said.
“At this stage there are no plans for dispersal as there are still dependent young in the colony from blacks and grey headed flying foxes.
“Under the state legislation we cannot disperse during this time due to animal welfare concerns.
“The window for any potential dispersal will not open until April or later.
“However, the bulk of the little red flying-foxes are likely to be gone by then as they are summer migrants to south east Queensland.”
Cr Milligan said the council recently had a “very constructive meeting” with Ipswich Central State School, the Department of Education and Queensland Health.
“Consensus was that dispersal would not be occurring at this time,” he said.
“The school has recently engaged a suitably qualified expert to provide advice and any future actions will be co-ordinated with council to minimise impacts on both facilities where possible.
“Council assisted the school by providing improved signage around the school and parents carpark.
“The Ipswich Nature Centre is a safe haven for native animals and according to the experts flying foxes are arguably the most important pollinators and seed dispersers in the country.
“It is summer and it has been wet so there is lots flowering so lots of flying-foxes.
“There is potential strain on food resources because of last summer’s bushfires across much of eastern Australia.”
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