ONE of Australia’s most significant trees grown from a First World War battlefield seed is facing attack from swarming flying foxes menacing Warrnambool’s Botanic Gardens stocks.
The pinus brutia, regarded as one of the best of four trees propagated from a pine cone souvenired from the famous Gallipoli Lone Pine by a south-west district soldier, is at least 80 years old.
However, its future could be shortened prematurely if measures are not put in place soon to discourage grey-headed flying foxes from roosting in its branches.
Cockatoos are also attacking the tree’s pine cones.
Gardens curator John Sheely said flying fox numbers had trebled in the past few weeks to an estimated 3000 and were stripping some trees.
“They are pretty well in every tree including the Lone Pine,” he told The Standard yesterday.
“Some trees, particularly the figs and plane tree, are being defoliated and if badly damaged would be at risk of dying.
“There are implications for the whole community.”
Advice is being sought from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries on appropriate ways to tackle the problem.
“I’m hoping we can actively manage them,” he said. Warrnambool’s RSL historian David McGinness, who inspected the pine yesterday, said the flying foxes posed a significant threat by damaging branches and carrying disease.
“We don’t want to lose it,” he said.
“It is our last living link with Gallipoli and must be protected at all costs.
“It is just too precious to have it knocked around and wrecked by bats.
“There’s a risk of them carrying root-borne disease like canker.
“If pines get knocked around too much they don’t recover.”
Mr McGinness said Warrnambool was fortunate to have the last of four trees planted from an original Lone Pine still in good health.
Mr Sheely said the flying foxes usually arrived in Warrnambool in April and stayed to August, but this year had come in January.
They roost in the gardens during the day and fly off around the district at night in search of food.