Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The face of pure evil?

Spectacled flying foxes (Pteropus conspicillatus) waiting to pounce on and attack passers-by
An eight-year-old Cairns boy has died in Brisbane after contracting the bat-borne Lyssa virus while on holiday in the Whitsundays. Fear-mongering front page headlines in the Cairns post, followed by page five or six calls for calm, have fueled calls for a flying fox cull in Cairns, particularly in the area next to the Cairns Library on the corner of Abbot and Aplin Streets - an area I walk through regularly on my way to and from work.

The boy's death, while regrettable, is only the third recorded fatality from the Lyssa virus. While the circumstances of the boy's infections are not known, it's likely that he found and tried to handle a fallen bat. Bats are not attacking people. Don't handle bats and you won't get infected.

I have often seen tourists looking up at the colony and taking photos. The bats add some natural charm to the city, and it would be a pity to see them culled or moved on. The bats do, however, create quite a mess on the sidewalks and cars parked underneath them, and then there is the infinitesimally small health risk. Myself, I'm more scared of infection from other people on my bus than from the bats. You humans are filthy and disease ridden things!

Here's an idea: Let's close Aplin Street between Abbott and Lake Streets and fill the area out with low growing plants and a footpath through the centre. The plants will act as a buffer around the bat colony, and will be fertilised by the guano. Pedestrians will be able to walk through without concern for surprises from above, and photographers will be able to get better shots without standing in traffic.

Oh, and for one writer to the Editor of the Cairns Post, poor quality translations of the Old Testament aside, bats are not birds!

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