Cool for the summer - Threatened bats refreshed by newly installed sprinkler

Friday 24 February, 2023

Victoria's largest permanent flying fox colony is now enjoying cooler summers thanks to a newly installed, custom-built sprinkler system at Yarra Bend Park on Wurundjeri Country.

Following a successful first trial in early January, the sprinkler system is activated on days when the colony is likely to experience heat-induced illness. This is determined by both behavioural monitoring and when temperatures rise above 38 degrees.

Colonies of the nationally threatened species can be susceptible to mass deaths on days of extreme heat. With extreme weather events occurring more frequently due to climate change, additional measures to protect the bats are essential to their survival.

The $180,000 project is an internationally recognised initiative delivered by Parks Victoria rangers and Zoos Victoria irrigation and wildlife experts. It forms part of a $5.3 million boost for wildlife from the Victorian Budget 2022/23.

Thirty-two sprinkler heads have been installed across two sites identified as important refuges for the flying foxes. Covering an area of three hectares, the system works to rapidly cool the environment by five to six degrees on days of extreme heat.

The colony of approximately 30,000 have enjoyed these major temperature drops throughout February, especially on days where the mercury reached 41 degrees.

The successful implementation of this project is part of an ongoing collaboration between Parks Victoria; Zoos Victoria; the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action; Melbourne Water; Friends of Bats and Bushcare Inc; Wildlife Victoria; and Yarra Bend Golf to safeguard the species.

Feeding on pollen and the nectar of eucalypt blossoms, other native hardwood blossoms and fruit trees across greater Melbourne, the Yarra Bend bats play a vital role in pollinating and dispersing seed for many native forests across the east coast of Australia.

Protecting this important habitat and refuge for the flying foxes will ensure Yarra Bend Park continues to offer a unique wildlife experience for visitors, within four kilometres of Melbourne CBD.

Quotes, attributed to Parks Victoria Area Chief Ranger Brendan Sullivan

“The success of the recently installed sprinkler system at Yarra Bend Park has exceeded our expectations and has proven to be a game-changer for our management of the Grey-headed Flying-fox colony.”

“The human impact of losing close to 5,000 bats in 2019 was incredibly difficult. Having the opportunity to respond early and run the system on days of extreme heat will protect this threatened species for years to come.”

Quotes, attributed to Zoos Victoria Irrigation Specialist Giuseppe Greco

“Zoos Victoria is proud to have collaborated with Parks Victoria to design an irrigation system that supports the welfare of a native threatened species.”

“It took six months of scientific research to design this irrigation system, focusing on species behaviour, site history and requirements, and most importantly, the environmental impact on the site as well as safety for both wildlife and people.”

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