Learn about bats including the differences between Queensland's flying foxes and microbats, as well as the facts on disease, and how these misunderstood creatures are under threat.
For lots of great info download our PDF brochure on bats.
Flying-foxes (also called fruit bats) are members of a large group of mammals called BATS. There are microbats and megabats. Bats are the only group of mammals capable of sustained flight.
There are four recognized species of megabats on mainland Australia: The Little Red, Grey-headed, Black and Spectacled Flying-foxes. They have a very keen sense of smell and good eyesight, both of which are needed to locate their food during the night. Microbats use echolocation – a bit like hearing with pictures, they still use their eyes to see too. Flying foxes and microbats are protected native Australian species, it is illegal to cause them harm.
Microbats are mammals and belong to the family order called Microchiroptera meaning “little hand-wing”. Like humans, microbats are warm-blooded placental animals and are covered with fur and they nourish their young with milk produced by the mothers. Bats share the same sense as we do in smelling, hearing, seeing and feeling, they have the added benefit of flight and an exceptional system of navigation and prey detection called echolocation.
Bats are the only mammals capable of sustained flight. Although their body plan is similar to other mammals their body has been modified for flight. Their wings are hands the same as our hands only the bones have elongated and are connected by a membrane which is made up of two layers of skin enclosing elastic fibres, blood vessels and nerves.
It is important to emphasize that humans do not get Hendra virus directly from flying-foxes.
Flying-foxes are considered the likely host and have probably lived with this virus for thousands of years. As they suffer no ill effects from the virus themselves, they develop antibodies and can live with the virus.
There are unknown factors why the virus is now causing the deaths of horses and the unfortunate, sad deaths of humans. These events are rare on the scale of things, not as deadly as many human to human diseases. The virus is not mutating or changing which is a very good thing for animals and humans!
Bats are becoming increasingly common in the urban environment, where they encounter many man-made hazards. You can help protect this important species by removing hazards, and make a positive difference by planting native trees and bushes that will provide food for bats and other native wildlife.