During daylight, bats hang in the trees outside the Cairns City Library in mass roosts called “camps.” The animals look like large black fruit dangling from the branches. At sunset, they wake up, wheeling acrobatically into the night sky to spend the night feasting on Eucalyptus pollen, fruit, and nectars.
In just the last century, bat numbers have gone from millions to less than 350,000, victims of lost habitats, climate extremes, and humans. According to the BBC, in November 2019, heat in Australia’s north wiped out almost one third of the nation’s spectacled fruit bats (also known as spectacled flying foxes).
There were three confirmed cases of the Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) being transmitted with deadly results. Despite the rarity, much attention has been given to public awareness, and the bats are not encouraged to roost anywhere near large populations of people.
Bats live in other Australian cities, but you usually have to journey a bit to see them. But in Cairns, the bats roost right in the city center. Sadly, the Cairns City Council does not like the bats being there, and has already removed some roost trees to discourage the animals from making themselves at home.
Update as of January 2021: The bats have been removed.
Know Before You Go
You can see the free show from either Abbott Street or Lake Street. Bat excrement is corrosive, so make sure your car is parked under cover!