Mystery of the mutant baby bats
AUTHORITIES will investigate why a mass of deformed baby flying foxes have been found among the permanent colony at Cairns Library in the city.
More than 100 newborn spectacled flying foxes with deformities such as cleft palates and twisted limbs have been found by wildlife carers underneath trees near the library colony since the start of the year.
James Cook University bat researcher Karen Wilson said while it was not unusual to have some deformed babies among a colony, it was unusual to have so many.
Ms Wilson, who also works as a vet at the Cairns Airport Veterinary Surgery, believed the cause may have been chemical spraying or other environmental stress.
"The reasons behind this – it would be great to see if it can be avoided again," she said.
"If there is some chemical use that has caused it, or whether there has been some construction around that may have upset them – I don’t know."
The permanent library colony normally has up to 100 baby deaths during flying fox birthing season, from October to December.
In 2008, a spike in the number of newborn bat deaths baffled experts.
The colony is a major attraction in the city, with the large numbers of the animals flying overhead each afternoon.
Cairns Regional Council has referred the matter to the Department of Environment and Resource Management and the CSIRO for investigation.
The council’s natural areas management co-ordinator, Russell Wild, said it was too early to know exactly what was the cause of the abnormalities.
"Until there is some science behind all this and we know what is likely to be going on, there is nothing we can do until we do that investigation," Mr Wild said.
"I think it’s best left to Queensland Parks and Wildlife and the appropriate officers to investigate, and we’ll file any recommendations they provide."
* Residents who encounter any dead or injured flying foxes at the library should contact DERM on 1300 130 372 or Far North Queensland Wildlife Rescue on 4053 4467.