In October 2004, South-east Queensland experienced one of their quietest bat seasons for years, while activity in Far-north Queensland had never been busier. Tick paralysis has been known to affect Spectacled Flying-foxes (Pteropus conspicillatus) since 1990. A specialised Australian bat hospital was set up at Tolga to deal with the hundreds of adults affected by the tick, and the hundreds of resulting orphans. Each year the incidence varies, depending on climatic conditions for the breeding of the paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus). Conditions appear to be ideal for the tick if a good wet season is followed by dry conditions from at least September onwards. The popular theory is that the bats are obtaining the ticks from tobacco plants which are low to the ground and, unlike other native wildlife, they have not yet developed any immunity to ticks.
Baby Spectacled Flying-foxes as they arrived at Brisbane Airport
Bat Rescue Inc. assisted Tolga Bat Hospital in 2004 by airlifting 90 baby Spectacled Flying-foxes into SE QLD and distributing them amongst carers. A total of 40 carers from six wildlife care organisations received orphans.
The whole operation in SE QLD was co-ordinated by Leanne Baird, President of Bat Rescue Inc. with the help of our members on the Sunshine Coast and the Bat Rescue Gold Coast Branch. There were a total of four arrivals from Cairns via Australian Air Express who kindly offered cheap airfares for our special cargo. Each delivery was in a single box designed to hold up to 24 babies. Special boxes were designed to return juveniles to FNQ and held only six to a box, hanging in individual compartments. They returned in five airlifts back to Cairns airport.
The operation was an enormous success and official guidelines have since been developed based on this experience for any similar future crisis situations.
Preparing the juveniles for their return journey
Another bad tick season occurred in 2008 and on this occasion the Tolga Bat Hospital premises became a clinic and wildlife trauma centre with many volunteers travelling from S.E.Queensland and New South Wales to assist with the enormous influx of affected animals.