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Mass mortalities in flying-foxes occur in summers that reach extremely hot temperatures. In this study, we examine the spatiotemporal distributions of mortality from pup abandonments and extreme heat events in Australian flying-fox camps during the 201920 summer. We recorded data on flying-fox mortality in known affected camps and applied a standard method to estimate the number of deaths. Pup mortalities from abandonments were recorded in 10 camps in New South Wales. A minimum estimate of 2612 flying-foxes died in pup abandonments, the majority of which occurred in one camp in Bomaderry. Die-offs from extreme heat events were recorded in 40 camps associated with eight separate heat events in south-eastern Australia. A minimum estimate of 72175 flying-foxes died during these heat events, which all occurred within the range of the threatened grey-headed flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus). Further, 409 and 2251 live flying-foxes were taken into care from pup abandonments and heat events respectively. The minimum mortality estimated represents the highest recorded mortality of Australian flying-foxes within a single summer. This highlights a need to restore vegetation in flying-fox foraging areas and camps, address anthropogenic climate change and gather more empirical data to inform heat stress interventions to minimise flying-fox mortalities.
Pacific Conservation Biology – CSIRO Publishing
Published: May 13, 2021
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