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A large-scale survey of residents living close to flying-fox camps to guide conflict management: preliminary report


Lentini, PE and Kendal, D and Currey, K and Williams, KJH, A large-scale survey of residents living close to flying-fox camps to guide conflict management: preliminary report, University of Melbourne and University of Tasmania, Australia (2020) [Government or Industry Research]

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Mainland Australia is home to four species of flying-foxes which, for various reasons, have become increasingly urban in their distributions over recent decades. Flying-fox roosts or "camps" are now a substantial source of conflict with human communities due to the real or perceived impacts of the bats on residents. Local councils are predominantly responsible for the management of these camps, but they are struggling to find approaches that satisfy residents. They also have limited capacity to coordinate and communicate with other councils involved in camp management. The objective of the survey was to explore two research questions, with a view to informing the broad-scale management of flying-foxes across Australia and associated conflict. These were:

  • What shapes individual’s attitudes towards flying-fox camps and their management?; and
  • What factors influence whether a camp is or is not controversial?

The survey consisted of 23 questions, split into five sections: i) Experience of your local flying-fox camp; ii) Management of flying-foxes; iii) Flying-fox management scenarios; iv) General attitudes towards wildlife; and v) Questions about you. Management agencies across eastern Australia were invited to nominate camps for the survey, with 18 agencies responding. From these nominations we chose 31 targets camps, that spanned 17 local councils. Participants were recruited from residences within a 300m zone of each camp. We sent out 8,000 hard-copies of the survey in July 2019, and also gave participants the option to complete it online. Responses were received up until December 2019. There were 1,623 responses in total – 847 from New South Wales, 692 from Queensland, and 84 from Victoria. Here, we present the preliminary aggregated findings to managers and participants.

From preliminary analysis some patterns have emerged that help paint a picture of the nature of human-flying fox interactions in urban areas, and associated management. Most residents are aware of their local flying-fox camp, and many are bothered by mess and smell associated with the bats, and are also concerned about potential disease risks. Many were either not aware of the camp when they moved to the area, or stated that the bats arrived after they had moved in. The extent to which a resident feels impacted, and in turn bothered, is not a simple function of how close they live to the camp, so distance alone should not be used as the eligibility criteria for mitigation schemes. Many of the survey respondents spent the majority of their week around their homes, which is why they may feel heavily impacted. Despite feeling impacted, many residents still chose to leave comments on how they liked the bats and didn’t want to see them harmed.

Overall, residents appear to have low trust in local government agencies and their abilities to manage flying-fox camps. Responses also indicated that, even if residents feel bothered by the camp, they do not tend to express their concerns to the management agency responsible, but instead talk to friends and neighbours. This means that the agency responsible may not be aware of any conflict until it becomes quite serious.

There are no clear-cut solutions to addressing conflict – while it is clear that removing most of the vegetation in the camps and culling bats is unacceptable to most residents, there was a very broad range of views on some of the most commonly-implemented management approaches such as the clearing of vegetation to create buffers and attempted dispersals. Some of the most popular options presented to participants were those that involved the community being more informed, and also having greater input into management decisions around of the camp. It is also important to ensure that residents are aware of trade-offs with regards to costs, impacts on bats and vegetation, and the anticipated effectiveness of management options to create realistic expectations. When these trade-offs were presented to participants as scenarios it became clear that there was disagreement in terms of what the residents felt was acceptable and what considerations they felt were most important, irrespective of what actions were being proposed.

The next step for this project will be a formal statistical analysis of the data, through which we hope to identify the relative importance of these factors in shaping people’s attitudes towards bats, and proximal drivers of conflict.

Item Details

Item Type:Government or Industry Research
Keywords:urban biodiversity
Research Division:Built Environment and Design
Research Group:Urban and regional planning
Research Field:Land use and environmental planning
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:Kendal, D (Dr Dave Kendal)
ID Code:140430
Year Published:2020
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (LP160100439)
Deposited By:Geography and Spatial Science
Deposited On:2020-08-17
Last Modified:2020-08-17

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