A historic heat wave in Australia killed off thousands of flying foxes late last year. In Australia’s northern coast, temperatures reached over 107 degrees for several days, leading to the deaths of around 23,000 flying foxes, which are some of the largest bats on the planet.
The flying foxes did everything in their power to beat the heat. This includes panting, using their wings as fans and coating their bodies with saliva. Unfortunately, the heat proved to be too much, and many of the bats fell to their deaths. A few hundred were also taken to rehab facilities in the region.
“We have never seen die-offs in this species before,” David Westcott, who works for the National Flying-Fox Monitoring Program, explained. “Indeed, across the species’ range, we have rarely, if ever, seen temperatures like this before.”
The large bats are not the only wildlife affected by such temperatures. The record-breaking heat wave killed camels, wild horses and fish over the past few months. The temperatures have climbed so high that hanging fruit cooked on trees.
Although 23,000 bats is a lot, this is hardly the first time such huge numbers of species have died because of heat waves. In 2014, a devastating heat wave led to the death of more than 45,000 bats in Queensland. Dating all the way back to 1791, there have been around 39 similar events, although 35 of them have happened after 1994.
What makes last year’s die-off unique is that it happened to a type of bat that is on the endangered species list. Prior to November, scientists estimated that there were around 75,000 spectacled flying foxes in the world, spread out among Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. That means the latest heat wave killed close to a third of their population, which could have devastating results on the future of the species.
In light of the situation, conservationists are doing their best to prevent future die-offs. Scientists working out of Western Sydney University have created a warning system that alerts local residents ahead of a heat wave, giving them enough time to provide the bats with life-saving water sources.
Image via Lonely Shrimp