PROTECTED: Red flying foxes in Tucabia a week before the fire. Photo: Greg Clancy
PROTECTED: Red flying foxes in Tucabia a week before the fire. Photo: Greg Clancy

Bats possible target of fire

RUMOURS have surfaced a bushfire that appeared to be deliberately lit at Tucabia was an attempt by people to move on the colony of bats residing in the area.

New South Wales Rural Fire Service district manager Superintendent Stuart Watts said natural causes could be ruled out and the incident would be reported to police.

"It definitely appears to be deliberately lit, with numerous ignitions around the place," Supt Watts said.

The fire started just after 8pm Saturday and took about four hours to extinguish.

"This is totally reckless and it's breaking the law," Supt Watts said.

"There is a lot of community angst out there and we can't say whether it was to move on the bats, but if it was, they are breaking a number of laws against (protected) species and that's the real issue here."

Clarence Valley ecologist and birding-wildlife guide Greg Clancy, who was photographing the colony of red flying foxes just last week, was shocked to learn people tried to burn the animals' habitat.

"I'm more sad than cranky about it. There are some real animal welfare issues here," Dr Clancy said.

"There were a lot of young species in that colony and we potentially had young ones still there when this happened who were unable to escape."

Dr Clancy said by moving on the bats, it would only cause more problems.

"What people don't realise is that by moving on the bats, they're just going to go somewhere else nearby and cause issues there," he said.

"If they had just left them alone, they would have upped and left in a couple of weeks anyway because red flying foxes are temporary.

"And this is a double whammy - what they've done is destroy the riparian vegetation, which is rare in itself, as well as move the bats during an important life stage when they were having babies."

One Tucabia resident said she was fed up with the bats in the area.

"We are sick of the smell and sick of the spewing as they fly over our houses," the resident, who preferred to remain unnamed, said.

Another agreed.

"I couldn't believe how many are there - the boat ramp absolutely stinks," the other resident said.