Batty for bats

By Casey Neill

Doveton is home to a 40,000-strong bat colony.
Rodney van der Ree from the Australasian Bat Society said the grey-headed flying foxes took up residence along Dandenong Creek about five to seven years ago.
“They roost colonially in groups,” he said.
“There’s only two groups in Melbourne – one at Doveton and one at Yarra Bend.
“Melbourne’s been the primary site, but there’s now as many bats in Doveton as there are in Melbourne proper.”
Mr van der Ree is involved in the Australasian Bat Night program, which runs each autumn and is designed to raise awareness and appreciation of bats.
Participants count the bats as they fly out for the night, and organisers debunk myths and fears surrounding the mammals.
“They’re a beautiful animal,” he said.
“They might smell a little bit but they’re pretty smart animals – one of the smartest for their little brain size.
“They’ve got these amazing social systems and they know who’s who in the zoo.
“Somehow they communicate to each other that there’s food available.
“They remember where their camps are around the countryside.”
He said people were “more likely to get run over by a bus than catch diseases from bats”.
“As long as you don’t pick up bats that might be on the ground – because they’re probably sick – the chances are very small of getting any diseases,” he said.
Mr van der Ree said the bats generally set up camp near water, so Dandenong Creek and stormwater treatment wetlands likely attracted them.
He said proximity to food was also a factor, and hot demand for food at Yarra Bend could have sent them searching for more elsewhere.
They eat nectar and pollen from flowers and fruit.
“They love spotted gums, they love Moreton Bay figs,” Mr van der Ree said.
“They’re really important from an ecology perspective.
“They spread seed around, and pollinate.”
The next flying-fox count in Doveton will be held at 7pm on Tuesday 6 March.
Participants meet on Floriana Avenue at Dandenong Creek about 30 minutes before dusk.
There are also counts scheduled for Tuesday 10 April at 5.30pm, Tuesdays 1 and 29 May at 5.15pm.
The project helps to understand the movements and ecology of the grey-headed flying fox.
Australasian Bat Society president Dr Justin Welbergen said: “We have many of our experienced people giving talks on bats, providing advice on how to look after bats that come into care, and demonstrating the building of bat roost boxes.”
“There is also interactive play and craft for kids, bat exhibitions, and a chance for people to meet a microbat or flying-fox up close.”
For more information call Australasian Bat Night co-ordinator Maree Treadwell Kerr on 0412 311 403, email or visit


  1. Not one of the Floriana Avenue residents who live close to this colony like the colony being there.
    DEPI did backburns of undergrowth in March 2014 from Lysterfield Lake up to Mt Dandenong and one week later the colony of bats arrived. Not coincidental as claimed by these so called bat experts.
    They stink, they steal the fruit from our fruit trees , they screech incessantly from dusk to about 10 pm then start again at 5am until about 7 or 7:30am. We lose sleep because of them. During the day any predator sets off the whole colony screeching again.
    They are a nuisance. They have lowered the value of our properties. There is no such thing as “quiet enjoyment” of a property. We cannot hold barbecues after it rains because of the stench. I have stopped inviting friends and family because it is embarrassing to have guests put up with this nuisance. The screeching probably breaks the noise limits allowed under the EPA and other laws.

    WE are the ones being driven batty by this pest colony. AND our street parking is taken up by these bat counters so friends and family can’t drop in on those nights.
    What a way to live. I would challenge anyone of these Bat Society members to put up for a year what we have put up with the last 4 years.

    The Wetlands were man made with trees used to anchor the islands.I know this because I have lived here for nearly 35 years and saw the Wetlands built. BUT the trees have been stripped by these bats and shortly will die. Result will be that the dead trees will no longer anchor the soil and the wetlands will disappear. Great result I don’t think. Rather than counting bats they should work out how to get the bats relocated to a non residential locale.

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