Hundreds of dead bats were scattered on the ground and left dangling from trees after extreme heat decimated a Campbelltown colony on Sunday.
While most Campbelltown residents did all they could to escape the heat, several WIRES volunteers descended on the colony near Campbelltown train station as part of a mass rescue and body collection mission.
At last count, 204 dead bats – mostly babies – had been collected, Campbelltown colony manager Kate Ryan said.
“I don’t know how many times I bent down and got on my knees to pick up a dead baby,” Mrs Ryan said.
“There were dead bodies everywhere.”
Young bats are particularly susceptible to extreme heat, with temperatures above mid 30 posing a health risk.
Any temperature above 40 degrees poses a risk for adults, while temperatures above 42 degrees “will see the loss of life”.
At 3.30pm on Sunday January 7, Campbelltown reached a maximum of 44.2 degrees.
“They basically boil,” Mrs Ryan said.
“It affects their brain – their brain just fries and they become incoherent.
“It would be like standing in the middle of a sandpit with no shade.”
Volunteers nursed more than 100 bats back to health on site, while about 20, which were considered critical, were taken into care.
Mrs Ryan said due to climate change, there was not much that could be done to prevent a similar incident occurring should the mercury reach the mid 40s again.
However, she said more should and could be done to improve the colony’s habitat to give the bats a fighting chance of survival.
“The colony is not in good shape,” she said.
“The creek which runs through the colony is putrid so the bats don’t have anywhere to cool down and there is no ground cover. It (the site) needs a total regeneration.
“(Campbelltown) Council need the funds (for regeneration) but if the government don’t want to provide the funds, there is not much the council can do about it.”
The number of dead was expected to climb as volunteers returned to the site on Monday, January 8.
Picton also has a flying fox colony however the bats were more protected from the heat than the Campbelltown colony, environmental outcomes manager Alex Stengl said.
“WIRES Volunteers were monitoring the bat colony at Picton over the weekend and there were no observed deaths,” she said.
“This is believed to be due to the topography of the area where the bat colony is located, which resulted in cooler temperatures for the bats.”