The urban presence of flying-foxes (pteropid bats) in eastern Australia has increased in the last 20. years, putatively reflecting broader landscape change. The influx of large numbers often precipitates community angst, typically stemming from concerns about loss of social amenity, economic loss or negative health impacts from recently emerged bat-mediated zoonotic diseases such as Hendra virus and Australian bat lyssavirus. Local authorities and state wildlife authorities are increasingly asked to approve the dispersal or modification of flying-fox roosts to address expressed concerns, yet the scale of this concern within the community, and the veracity of the basis for concern are often unclear. We conducted an on-line survey to capture community attitudes and opinions on flying-foxes in the urban environment to inform management policy and decision-making. Analysis focused on awareness, concerns, and management options, and primarily compared responses from communities where flying-fox management was and was not topical at the time of the survey. While a majority of respondents indicated a moderate to high level of knowledge of both flying-foxes and Hendra virus, a substantial minority mistakenly believed that flying-foxes pose a direct infection risk to humans, suggesting miscommunication or misinformation, and the need for additional risk communication strategies. Secondly, a minority of community members indicated they were directly impacted by urban roosts, most plausibly those living in close proximity to the roost, suggesting that targeted management options are warranted. Thirdly, neither dispersal nor culling was seen as an appropriate management strategy by the majority of respondents, including those from postcodes where flying-fox management was topical. These findings usefully inform community debate and policy development and demonstrate the value of social analysis in defining the issues and options in this complex human-wildlife interaction. The mobile nature of flying-foxes underlines the need for a management strategy at a regional or larger scale, and independent of state borders.
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- Flying fox
- Hendra virus