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For a creature with straw coloured rings of fur around its eyes, that soars amongst the rainforest canopy with the slick face and snout of a fox, it’s not hard to see why it was named the Spectacled Flying Fox.
Restricted to the north-east regions of Queensland, as well as Papua New Guinea and its islands of Woodlark, Alcester, Kiriwina and Halmahera, the Spectacled Flying Fox spends the majority of its time in the upper canopy of rainforests.
However, unlike others of its kind, this bifocaled looking, bat-like creature will scour the forest at night, searching for food in a seemingly random way, with the pack splitting up in all directions. During this pitch black flight, the Spectacled Flying Fox is guided by its keen sense of smell, excellent night vision, and the feeding cries of its clan.
Its food consists of nectar, pollen and fruits of forest trees such as Northern Bloodwood, Apple Box, various citrus fruits and mangoes. It’s also known to disperse the seeds of at least 26 different species of rainforest plants, and after stripping a batch of trees bare, the colony will fly a short distance to start the process anew.
The Spectacled Flying Fox also likes to drink on the fly, often skimming over the water’s surface. This unfortunately has led to their death (on more than one occasion) from the jaws of a crocodile, or the claws of an eager sea eagle. They’ve also been known to feature on the menu of a carpet python from time to time.
In breeding, the Spectacled Flying Fox is thought to be polygamous, with females capable of giving birth at around one year of age and producing one pup annually. Sexually activity is continuous from January to June, with conception occurring from April to May.
The young are then nursed for around five months, with juveniles flying out for increasing distances with the colony at night. During such dark journeys, pups are left in nursery trees at some distance from the family before being returned in the morning. No colony is known to live at a greater distance than 7km from the rainforest.
The Spectacled flying fox, which was listed as a threatened species in 2002, can often be spotted in and around the grounds of Thala, or at the very least they can be heard, as they rarely sleep, and engage in rather incessant chatter amongst themselves in the forest.
One wonders what they talk about.