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Arboriculture students to the rescue in Yarra Bend

Eddie the flying fox pup drinking
Arboriculture students helped save Eddie the flying fox pup

Arboriculture Courses

Arboriculture sits within Melbourne Polytechnic's horticulture program

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Yarra Bend Park – home to one of Australia’s biggest grey-headed flying fox colonies is not immune to dangerous hazards given its proximity to urban life. This protected population of leather-winged friends averted disaster recently thanks to Melbourne Polytechnic arboriculture students Tom and Eddie.

You don’t need to be on terra firma to get caught up in a hazard, in fact you don’t even need to be human. The simplest man-made objects can cause havoc on our wildlife.

Lawrence Pope, President of Friends of Bats and Bush Care had been eyeing off a hazardous kite that was entwined high in the Yarra Bend tree tops. The innocuous kite posed a dire risk for a local colony of native flying foxes, especially as it happened to be in the middle of their summer and autumn roosting site and close to the soft-release enclosure where our bat-pups are released.

High-wire help at hand

Lawrence said “I struggled myself on two occasions trying to reach the kite and broke two 6m poles in the process. I dubbed the job: Mission ‘impossible’. However, when driving along Yarra Bend Road I saw the Melbourne Polytechnic students using ropes to go up VERY high trees and thought they might be able to help. I spoke to (teacher) Joe who was very helpful and we arranged to meet with climbers Eddie and Tom”.

Students Eddie and Tom, who are studying their Diploma of Arboriculture AHC50520 safely scaled the gum trees with guidance from teacher Joseph Kellet who oversaw them through this difficult and hair-raising feat of arboreal ninja-style climbing.

Flying Foxes on the protected list

Our furry flying friends have had a rough ride over the last couple of years. In just the last century, flying foxes and fruit bat numbers have gone from millions down to less than 350,000 Australia wide. In Melbourne’s Yarra Bend Park, the colony sits at about 30,000 at its peak in summer. They have fallen victim to urban sprawl, changing climate and human interference, and are at a very real risk of being extinct by the year 2050.

Puppy school

Baby bats (called ‘pups’) often fall from the grip of their mothers and end up in perilous situations. The latest orphan, found shivering and cold on the ground, has affectionately been called Eddie after one of the students that removed the kite hazard.

Lawrence and the team at Friends of Bats and Bush Care look after bats and pups that have found misfortune.

Please grab yourself a box of tissues here; Eddie will lose two mums and, yes, they cry when it happens. His first loss is his biological mum. Lawrence says ‘we don’t know where Eddie’s mum is or if she’s even still alive. Eddie's second mum is his human carer with which the young pup fiercely bonds. Sadly, human carer mum has to part with her pup when he/she goes to bat school and can never see them again. This is necessary for full integration into the wild. We can’t have bub landing on human mums in the suburbs hoping for an extra bottle feed!’.

The bats are released back into their colony after they have had time to recover and grow.

Wishing both of our Eddies the very best of luck in the future.

Did you know

  • Grey-headed flying foxes are listed as vulnerable to extinction under the federal government's Ecological Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and several state wildlife protection laws.
  • If you have fruit trees at home, be conscious of your netting purchase – all types of bird netting pose some risk to wildlife but some are much better than others. The basic rule is, if you can stick your finger through the netting, it is not safe. Check with Wildlife Victoria for the safest netting to use.
  • Bellbird Park in Yarra Bend is the best viewing spot to see Melbourne’s flying fox colony take flight every evening around dusk. The numbers swell in summertime to around 40,000.
  • The bats migrate east and then north going from camp to camp and building forest as they go via pollination and seed dispersal. They are a keystone species and ecological solid gold with over 100 species of native trees benefiting from their out-cross pollination work.

Start in Arboriculture

Arboriculture is the study of tree cultivation and management, with outdoor work and tree climbing part of the day-to-day job. Arborists are in very high demand, with only 15% of advertised job opportunities filled in the past several years. With increased focus on parks and green spaces in our urban area, arboriculture is a career that is set to grow over the next five years.