John Martin is Wildlife Management Officer at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. In his interview he talks about his work at the Gardens, focussing primarily on the changing seasonal behaviour and population of Grey-Headed Flying Foxes (bats). In the excerpt below John describes the competing interests of that threatened species and conservation imperatives in the Gardens.
The flying foxes are a native species that always came to the Sydney region to forage. However, European habitation of Australia has changed the resources available and flying foxes have stopped coming to Sydney seasonally and are here throughout the year. During the 1970s, and perhaps even slightly earlier, there was a big push of the greening of the environment, so street tree plantings as well as beautification of your backyard, your front yard, and that’s increased the amount of foraging resources available. Things like Cocos palms and Canary Island date palms and hybrid natives like grevilleas and eucalypts that have abundant nectar flow throughout the year. And so here on site at the Botanic Gardens and in the Domain we’ve got these massive Moreton Bay figs and Port Jackson figs that were planted in the mid-1800s – they’re over a hundred and fifty years old now – and they produce a lot of fruit. So over the last twenty two years, twenty three years since ’89 – the [flying fox] population across the Sydney region has gradually increased. It’s a long term issue for us with respect to the loss of significant heritage species. Some of them are botanically significant, a number of them form part of the historic nature of the site. The issue is that the flying foxes have increased in number and they’ve been having a significant impact on the historic landscape. So we’ve had twenty eight trees die, we’ve had thirty palms die and we’ve got an additional sixty trees and palms considered to be in a critical condition; they’re likely to die in the next five to ten years.