The other day, I took a walk through Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens on my way to the harbor. I did not explore the entire Gardens, so when I do, I will dedicate a post just to them.
What I want to write about today is an interesting group of creatures I encountered as I took my stroll…a colony of grey-headed flying foxes (i.e. huge freaking bats) who have made the Gardens their home.
As I walked along the path in the Gardens, I was struck by a series of high pitched screeching sounds. When I looked up, I saw what looked like hundreds of large oval shaped fruits hanging from the trees about nine meters (30 feet) up in the air.
It wasn’t coconuts I was looking at.
It was an extensive colony of large brownish-grey slumbering bats, each one wrapped in a blanket of large black leathery wings. They looked to be about a half-meter tall (1.6 feet) from their feet down to their heads.
It was quite a grotesque sight, but a grandiose display of natural beauty nonetheless.
It was this group of creatures that collectively voiced the screeching noises I heard. So next time you complain about your partner talking in his/her sleep, just be lucky you don’t have to sleep next to one of these somniloquists.
Every once in a while, one of these slumbering creatures would rouse itself and fly around, showing off a magnificent wingspan of about one meter (3.2 feet). Wikipedia says these bats are among the largest in the world.
I decided to do a little research on this bat and I discovered this particular colony of bats is at the center of a controversy between the Gardens, who want them gone, and conservationists, who say the bats are a valuable part of the ecosystem.
Though the bats are growing in numbers at the Gardens (as well as in similar Gardens in Melbourne), they are declining in numbers elsewhere (National Geographic).
You may be wondering why, instead of making a mad dash out of there, I took the time to look up and observe these bats. Well…
On my plane ride to Sydney, I was lucky enough to sit next to another American transplant, who actually told me I would run into these creatures. My first question…
Do they carry rabies?
The answer… Australia doesn’t have rabies.*
That’s a good thing…considering Sydney also has huge freaking possums!
*Editors Note: As I looked for supporting information on the lack of rabies in Australia, I came accross this document from the Australian Department of Health and Ageing, which does, in fact, say that there are no rabies in Australia or New Zealand. However, it does go on to say the bats in Australia have been known to carry a separate but related disease called Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL), from which people have died.
The moral of the story…if you come to visit me in Sydney, you may want to do your own research on the native wildlife – instead of listening to me!