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Australia’s Capital Implements Net Size Restrictions to Safeguard Wildlife

“By using wildlife friendly netting, you can protect your fruiting plants as well as our native wildlife,” ACT’s environment minister said.

New laws banning the use of “dangerous” fruit tree netting in backyards across Australia’s capital will be put into effect to protect native wildlife such as birds, possums, snakes, and flying foxes.

On Sept. 19, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government introduced the amendment to the Nature Conservation Act 2014 to ban the use of netting with holes larger than 5 millimetres (0.2 inches).

The recommended netting mesh size will now be 5mm x 5mm or smaller, with no gaps for wildlife to enter from the ground or sky. If a finger can fit through the mesh, it is considered unsafe.

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Retailers who continue to sell the banned netting will need to show signs informing customers about these new rules.

This is a small change that will make a big difference to the lives of wildlife in the ACT, said Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti who introduced the bill.

“Netting can be an important resource for gardeners to protect their crops from local wildlife,” she said in a statement.

“But it can entangle threatened native wildlife such as fruit bats, birds, snakes, and lizards if the mesh size is too large or it is not installed correctly.”

Their subsequent struggle to free themselves may cause deep cuts and strangulation, often leading to death.

(Sincerely Media/Unsplash)
(Sincerely Media/Unsplash)

She said wildlife care groups are regularly called upon to rescue animals such as flying foxes, among other species, from netting in urban backyards.

“Grey-headed flying foxes are vulnerable to extinction in the ACT and naturally become distressed when entangled, causing serious injuries, or even death before help can arrive,” Ms. Vassarotti said.

“By using wildlife friendly netting, you can protect your fruiting plants as well as our native wildlife.”

Free wildlife-safe netting replacement is being offered throughout September and October to replace existing unsafe fruit netting.

Helping Injured Animals

If people find an animal or bird trapped in their netting, they are advised not to release them themselves, according to government health advice.

This is because attempted rescues risk human injury and can be distressing for wildlife, with animals potentially dying from shock.

Instead, they should arrange a safe rescue with a qualified wildlife handler, or call the government line on 13 22 81.

Several species of wildlife are also infected with viruses. For instance, flying foxes can carry the Australian Bat Lyssavirus. This virus is related to rabies and can be transferred to a human through an infected bat’s saliva coming into contact with a mucous membrane or open wound.

This means it is possible to contract the virus by a bite, scratch, or bat saliva entering or touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

It is strongly advised that people do not touch any bat without appropriate vaccinations. Sick or injured bats should never be handled.

If bitten or scratched, the wound should be washed thoroughly with soap and water for five minutes strictly (do not scrub), and antiseptic applied if available.

Eyes, noses, or mouths that have come into contact with bat saliva should be flushed thoroughly with water. In all cases of exposure, medical advice should be sought immediately.

Due to a significant decline in numbers, grey-headed flying foxes are listed as an endangered species. They leave the camp at dusk and feed at night on fruit from trees in orchards and backyards nearby when their natural food sources become scarce.

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