Bats as black as the night sky

Capricorn Enterprise

with Mary Carroll

MENTION the word "bat" and you usually receive one of two reactions - empathy or disgust.

But this column is not about the flying fox colonies. It is dedicated to 180,000 little bent-wing bats, which feed solely on insects and breed in Bat Cleft at Mount Etna Caves National Park, 25km north of Rockhampton.

Every year up to mid-February, National Park rangers allow us to participate in a truly amazing natural experience on a three-hour tour via a 2.4km track on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

One of only five recorded little bent-wing bat maternity sites in Australia, Mount Etna boasts 80% of the known population of breeding females. At dusk, the entire colony of little bent-wing bats flies out from the caves to feed, with tree frogs and sometimes snakes waiting at the entrance to predate.

The breeding cycle for 2011/12 is coming to an end and tour numbers are limited, so book now by calling the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Rockhampton office on 49360511 or call in to one of our Visitor Information Centres in Yeppoon or Rockhampton for assistance.

Tour fees this summer are $9.40 per adult, $4.65 per child, $6.20 for pensioners and $28.50 for a family.

The guided tour takes you up Mount Etna through remnant dry rainforest and then across the limestone karst landscape to Bat Cleft, and a safety harness is provided so you can get as close to the edge of the bat cleft as possible.

The kids might have returned to school but it doesn't mean you cannot continue to have a holiday in your own backyard!

Until next time …

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