The grey-headed flying-fox, more commonly know as the 'fruit bat', is Australia's largest megabat and a protected species in NSW. Grey-headed flying-foxes are nocturnal mammals who live in camps containing hundreds to tens of thousands of animals. Flying-foxes roost in these camps during the day and are active during the night, flying out at sunset and often travelling 30-50km to forage for food. Flying-foxes are a keystone species and play an invaluable role in maintaining the health and biodiversity of our environment. Unlike smaller microbats, who use echolocation to find and feed on insects, flying-foxes use their eyes and ears to locate food. They exist on a diet of nectar, pollen and fruit. Grey-headed flying-foxes are particularly attracted to native trees such as eucalypts, banksias, figs and melaleucas (paperbark), however they will also resort to non-native food sources, such as cocos palm fruit, in times of food shortage. Many native Australian flowering trees produce their nectar at night, making the nocturnal flying-fox ideally suited for seed dispersal and pollination. Flying-foxes are excellent cross-pollinators, carrying seeds and pollen in their fur and droppings and dispersing them over long distances, ensuring a healthy and genetically robust ecosystem. After flying long distances throughout the night, flying-foxes will return to their camps before sunrise, where they will roost and rest for the day.
The Sutherland Shire is currently home to three flying-fox camps: Kareela, Kurnell Desalination Plant, and Camellia Gardens in Caringbah South. A fourth, temporary camp has been identified off Captain Cook Drive in Cronulla, however this camp is presently unoccupied. The Office of Environment and Heritage offer this advice for residents living near a flying-fox camp.
The risk of contracting disease from a flying-fox is low. A very small percentage (<1%) of wild flying-foxes carry the Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV). ABLV is found in the saliva of infected animals and can only be transmitted through a bite or a scratch. It is therefore strongly recommended that members of the public do not handle flying-foxes. ABLV cannot be transmitted through urine or faeces and, according to NSW Health, living, working or playing near a flying-fox camp does not pose a significant risk.
If do you come across an injured or dead flying-fox, please phone WIRES on 1300 094 737. WIRES will send an appropriately vaccinated carer to rescue or attend to the animal.
For more information on flying-foxes and your health, please see NSW Health's flying-fox fact sheet.
Kareela Flying-fox Camp
Visit this page to learn more about past and present management of the Kareela Camp.
Report a flying-fox sighting to us