Broome Bats

BROOME BATS - Megan & Lawrence Pope

In our sixties and hailing from winter freezing Melbourne, we make an annual pilgrimage to Broome to catch up with family and soak up the mind & body healing WA sun. The idea is to “get away from it all!” Well that’s the idea. You see, we work closely with Melbourne’s colony of Grey-headed flying foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) and promulgate the good bat news (pollination, landscape regeneration and biodiversity etc) whenever possible.

Once we realised that Broome boasted an impressive flying fox colony of its own I was directed to a local “expert” at Parks & Wildlife for more detailed information. “Oh yes, they’re big bastards”. Right. “I think one crapped on me car the other night”. Not sure? “Not 100 percent.” Perhaps some other bastard? “Yeah!”. And that was about it.

Dining out a few nights later Megan observed a man with a torch showing visitors the Little Red flying foxes noisily foraging among a nearby tree for nectar, with an air of knowledge he declared to the assembly, “They’re blind you know”. This was too much. Megan politely interjected “Ah sorry, you see those big eyes?” “Ah… yep”. “Not blind. Great night vision…actually no bats are blind”. “Well, there you go! I had no idea.” said the man turning off his torch.

And so went “get away from it all”. It was all here. Bat education needed. But it’s all good fun and Broome mob are good sports.

For more information:

BATS ABOUT BROOME: Bat fly-out is great wildlife "Theatre" - Lawrence Pope

Each twilight along Broome’s Roebuck Bay mangroves around 75,000 native Black flying foxes, and a few Little Red flying foxes, wake up, have a chat and then head out en-mass to search for their vegetarian breakfast. It is the largest collection of wildlife on the Broome peninsular.

The fly-out as seen from the Roebuck Bay lookout at Dampier Tce or Streeter`s Jetty pre-dates humanity by eons and is, I think, one of the most memorable Broome experiences and something to savour.

October is a special time of year for Broome’s Black flying foxes. Every female of reproductive age will either give birth or be carrying her single baby.

The pups hang onto mum 24/7 for the first month in their lives. She will clean, groom and breast feed her baby throughout the day. At night the pup will cling to her underbelly attached to a nipple at one end and by its large feet at the other.

They become distressed if they lose contact with the nipple as a fall from mum often means death (dummies are a necessity when caring for orphan bat pups).**

Remember to look up at fly-out time and if you see a bat with what looks like a bomb fixed underneath, it’s her bubby.

The pup is feed by mum for up to five months before it joins other juveniles and becomes independent. (Juveniles and “teenage” bats can often be heard squabbling and play fighting during the day when most adults are sound asleep – why sleep when you could be talking?)

Even then it will return to her for a supplementary feed while learning to forage successfully for its diet of nectar, pollen and fruit.

Broome mixed colony of Black flying foxes and Little Red flying foxes can number over one hundred thousand animals. Each bat will visit ten trees or more every night. That’s a million trees and shrubs being “serviced” by pollination and having their seeds dispersed every night – they are engines of biodiversity regenerating the landscape. It’s a job they’ve been doing here for millions of years.

As well as the flying foxes also keep an eye-out for one of the regions twenty-two species of microbats (about sparrow size or smaller) hunting for mozzies and other bugs.*

*Remember to apply insect repellent and never go into the mangroves without a local indigenous guide/tour e.g. Narlijia Tours with Bart Pigram.

** Bats should never be disturbed at their daytime roost/camp. They can drop their pup and need to rest and sleep. There is also risk of accidental bite or scratch.