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Funding Interventions and Research to Mitigate the Pteropodid–Grower Conflict

Bicknell (2002) advocated an urgent need for funding research into non-lethal aversion agents to mitigate flying fox damage. Such research funds have not yet been made available in Australia. Individual government authorities have been reluctant to take ownership of the problem, while industry organisations do not view it as an industry-wide issue, as the majority of fruit growers in some parts of the country are not affected. Apart from research into specific mitigation methods, there is also a need to study netted orchards in order to determine the effects of netting—not just on the environment created under the net and on the ripening fruit, but also the implications of excluding other potential pollinators such as birds and insects. Ultimately, however, aversion agents and cheaper methods would be a preferred method for many orchardists in Australia compared to netting or even culling (Ullio 2002), and funds should be provided to develop and test such methods (Bicknell 2002; Bower 2002; Thiriet 2010). Thiriet (2010) also suggested that the dearth of such funding is caused by negative community attitudes and political considerations, which may influence the inaccurate conservation status of some species of flying foxes, such as Least Concern as in Queensland. The unpopularity of these species must thus be overcome in order to attract appropriate research funding.

Australian orchardists maintain that it is the government's responsibility, not theirs, to fund the research (Bicknell 2002) because they believe it was not orchards which caused the habitat loss driving this problem (Tidemann 1999). Bicknell (2002) pointed out that orchards provide flying foxes with food when wild resources are scarce. He also highlighted how government departments are responsible for releasing large areas of flying fox habitat for logging and agriculture and that therefore, the financial burden of protecting crops from flying foxes should be borne by the authorities. Biel (2002) echoed this concept of 'public good conservation', stating that flying fox conservation benefits the wider community, and cited examples of other projects that utilised the community benefit approach. He pointed out that the loss of native flying fox food in Australia was caused by 'the people who lived in the cities', since most fruit orchards were established on land that had already been previously cleared for cattle grazing. Fruit growers could thus be said to have revegetated the land, and therefore, it is unfair that they alone should bear the cost of protecting flying foxes. Martin and McIlwee (2002) agree with this and recommend that the cost of netting should be subsidised by federal funding.

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