Bello Gives a Fig is a community-led project that restores preferred food trees for the Bellingen-Shires grey-headed flying fox colonies and raises awareness of the mega-bats in local schools.
The picturesque village of Bellingen on the Mid North Coast of NSW is home to several colonies of the nationally threatened grey-headed flying fox. With an impressive wingspan measuring up to a metre, these megabats are intelligent, social animals that live in large colonies, sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands.
Like other animal pollinators, flying foxes are intimately connected with the health of our native forests, spreading the pollen and seeds of over 100 species of flowering and fruiting trees over vast distances. In a single evening, a grey-headed flying-fox covers an average of 40km, spreading up to 60,000 seeds as it flies.
But the ongoing loss of flowering trees in south-eastern Australia is leading to critical food shortages for the bats, particularly in winter and spring. This loss of food and habitat, along with the impacts of climate change such as increasing droughts and heatwaves, is resulting in a concerning drop in the number of all four of Australia’s flying fox species and is forcing the bats into urban areas bringing them into conflict with people.
Though the verdant Bellingen Valley may appear a diverse, healthy landscape, a closer look reveals that it in many areas tree cover is dominated by introduced species, particularly camphor trees and privet which do not provide habitat or food for the region’s struggling flying fox colonies and outcompete native vegetation. This has resulted in the flying foxes that feed in the Bellingen Valley, having to fly further and further afield to get the food they need. Bello Gives a Fig is working to replace introduced tree species with biodiverse planting that will provide reliable food and habitat for the mega bats into the future.
The project also educates local school children on the vital role that flying foxes play in ensuring healthy forests and agriculture as well as on the importance of wildlife corridors for helping to ensure that bats and other wildlife can survive and adapt to climate change. The youngsters help to collect the seeds of preferred local bat feed trees, grow them in their schools and then plant them on public lands to create corridors of prime flying fox foraging habitat. These plantings also benefit a host of other local wildlife that share similar food and habitat needs, including koalas and rose-crowned fruit doves.
Bello Gives a Fig is funded through a grant from the Bellingen Shire Council and is being supported by GER.