WE MUST tackle the “potential time bomb” that is the flying fox influx in Tamworth to protect the region’s multi-million-dollar equine industry, a local man has said.
Sandy Allan has called for action to address the city’s unprecedented flying fox population – which has doubled to 100,000 over the last fortnight – to mitigate the risk of horses contracting the deadly Hendra virus.
While Mr Allan calls for tighter measures to deal with the virus-carrying pests, industry experts warn we should not be alarmist. It comes as Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) will create a buffer zone by lopping trees from today.
“Whilst Hendra virus has – to date – not made an appearance in the TRC area, this does not imply that it cannot and will not emerge,” Mr Allan said in a letter to the editor.
“The continuing presence of flying foxes in our midst is akin to a potential time bomb.”
Veterinarian Dr Jen Clulow, of Tamworth Equine Vet Centre, said we should be “alert but not alarmed” by the influx of flying foxes, but she reassured the likelihood of a Hendra outbreak in the region was minimal.
“There is a probability that Hendra virus could be brought into this particular area and although we haven’t had any outbreaks, it’s important that this does not imply it cannot or will not emerge at some point in the future,” Dr Clulow said.
“It would be potentially disastrous for the horse industry here in Tamworth.”
Dr Clulow said it was at the owner’s discretion about whether to vaccinate a horse against Hendra, and to consider the risks of horses that are going off the property or competing away against other potentially-unvaccinated horses.
AELEC general manager Mike Rowland shut down any fears of Hendra being detected at the venue.
“In regards to equine events we hold at AELEC, event organisers need to meet the requirements of the NSW DPI,” he said. “Trees at our venue do not attract bats and the manner in which horses are kept on site would not see a horse contract the virus at our venue.”
NCHA GM Craig Young said their events adhered to the DPI industry standards.