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Question: Adelaide Parklads Flying Fox Colony

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The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development a question about the Adelaide Parklands flying fox colony and biosecurity.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: This weekend, we will see the Parklands transformed into a bright, colourful and loud venue of WOMADelaide. While many enjoy this festival experience, one group that has raised some concerns is the Fauna Rescue Flying Fox and Microbat coordination team that work with the substantial colony of some 60,000 bats that call this part of the Parklands home.

I note that the trees that these animals would normally move to, to avoid any excessive heat, are within the WOMADelaide event footprint and, indeed, that WOMADelaide has informed the wildlife carers that no sprinklers to assist the animals are allowed to be turned on during the event as these would impact the electrical equipment, stall operators and patrons.

I note the reason that we have sprinkler equipment in these trees is because in 2019, a heat wave saw the bat population almost halved. As a response, the sprinklers were installed. Similar sprinkler systems in other states have seen a significant reduction in heat-related bat deaths, and the Adelaide Parklands population now, of course, also has the benefit of this sprinkler system.

Yet, we know for the long weekend ahead we have a day of at least 37 degrees, and we are looking at a hot long weekend. It is a concern that we may see bat deaths, deaths that would almost certainly be prevented if that sprinkler system, that is already in place, is employed. We could have bats falling to the ground amongst the stalls, the stages and people.

We know that bats die at WOMADelaide because, in the past, they have had to be put into dedicated, bright yellow wheelie bins marked 'Toxic waste. Bat carcasses', which of course is not something we wish to see detracting from the WOMADelaide experience. Indeed, if animals or branches come down there is real concern not only for safety and public health outcomes but, of course, the impact it will have on this major event for South Australia.

My question to the minister is: how will you ensure that those who attend WOMADelaide do not face a biosecurity risk from the presence of the dead bats, should there be any, and will the purpose-built sprinkler system be employed should there be hot days?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I thank the honourable member for her question. I have a few pieces of information initially. I am advised that the flying fox colony is a highly mobile species that became established in South Australia in 2010, correlating with food shortages in the Eastern States. The size of the colonies fluctuates with food resource availability.

I am advised that the creatures are important to Australia's forests and woodlands as long-distance dispersers of pollen and seed, and are of conservation concern due to threats associated with habitat loss, and climate-related impacts such as heat stress events that cause mass mortalities, as the honourable member has mentioned, as well as large-scale bushfires that reduce the availability of foraging habitat.

There is a national flying fox monitoring program, which is a collaborative project between the Australian and state governments and the CSIRO. It estimates the national population as approximately 600,000 individuals. As the colony has resided at Botanic Park since 2010, I am advised that Green Adelaide is working with the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium to implement a management plan for long-term impacts at Botanic Park, including, for example, a planting scheme to replace trees being impacted by the colony.

As was mentioned, heat stress events can kill large numbers in Botanic Park and they also pose a risk to public safety and create poor welfare outcomes for the species. I don't have detail here, and I am happy to take it on notice, but I am advised that the sprinkler system was a trial to cool the colony during high temperature days in order to reduce both welfare impacts of heat stress and potential public health risks of large numbers of heat-affected animals on the ground. As such, as a trial, I don't know whether the outcomes of that trial will result in its being continued, but I am happy to take that on notice and bring back a response. The comments in regard to how that is impacted by WOMAD, I can also seek additional information.

The Department for Environment and Water regulates native fauna under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, and initiatives that manage and/or protect fauna must also comply with the Animal Welfare Act 1985. As a list of threatened species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, management of the Botanic Park colony comes under that, which of course is my colleague in the other place the Minister for Environment and Water.

I will seek additional information, but I would also mention that Green Adelaide convenes a South Australian flying fox working group with stakeholders to guide impact mitigation and conservation strategies for the species. It may be that further information could be provided through that avenue.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Supplementary: given that the sprinklers are installed, why can't they be turned on should it be too hot?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I will check with my colleague whether the information is accurate and, if so, what is the reason.

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