A massive heatwave that hit Australia since last week killed more than a thousand of the endangered species. Without any trees (which had recently been cut) they suffered an agonizing fate.

There are plenty of gruesome pictures and videos of the flying fox carnage — we won’t share any here. This is what a healthy animal looks like. Image credits: James Niland.

It was one of the saddest things you could imagine. Most bats were found lying on the scorched ground, while others still cling to the trees as their lifeless bodies hang below.

“We’ve seen bats die after a heatwave before, but nothing like these figures,” Wildlife Aid bat coordinator Jaala Presland said. “It wouldn’t be unreasonable to estimate 1000 bats have died, and they’re still dying – that’s a very big chunk considering the size of the camp before the heat.”

Burdekin Park in Singleton, where this happened, used to be home to some 30,000 flying foxes. In fact, they were so successful that they started damaging some of the trees in which they were living. Branches started falling off, and the park was eventually closed off to the public. Things didn’t really improve, and then-mayor John Martin decided to cut down a bunch of trees to “convince” the bats to relocate. Even in the face of this disaster, Martin still defends his decision.

“It was done legally and legitimately,” he said. “The park was broken down and ruined, the situation was unbearable. My opinion was then, and still is now, we had to do something about it.”

But this decision doomed the critters, and it doomed them to a very slow and painful demise.

“You can’t imagine what they would have went through,” Presland explains. “In the past, they would have climbed up into the canopies of the trees to cool down in the shade. Taking away their habitat may have moved some of them on, but most of the bats still in the park had nowhere to go and cooked from the inside, out.”

Meanwhile, Australia isn’t really doing too well facing this heatwave. Wildfires are starting to ravage the country and power outages are not uncommon in some areas. However, the biggest irony came in the Australian Parliament, where members of the Liberal Party (think of them as the rough equivalent of the Republicans in the US) are bringing coal to meetings. They’re proposing coal as a solution to the very problem that coal is causing. Coal can solve rising temperatures… that’s quite an idea.

“This is coal — don’t be afraid, don’t be scared,” Liberal treasurer Scott Morrison said in Parliament, blaming recent blackouts in South Australia on the government’s attempts to use more renewable energy.

 

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