Backyard fruit tree netting is one of the major causes of death to local wildlife, particularly the grey-headed flying fox. The animal can get itself trapped and tangled in the netting and if not rescued, can die there. If the animal is rescued it often needs extensive rehabilitation and, in some cases, has to be euthanised. This is proving to be a real problem for wildlife and animal rehabilitation workers.

“Wildlife Victoria had nearly 600 call-outs in 2010 for grey-headed flying fox entanglements in backyard fruit tree nets,” explains Lawrence Pope, president of Victorian Advocates for Animals to Neos Kosmos.

“What happens is people put nets over their fruit trees to protect their fruit. The animals come in at night and see the fruit, land on the net and become hopelessly entangled. The animal then becomes very seriously injured and requires a great deal of rehabilitation.”

He said about a third of these animals have to be euthanised as a result of these injuries. “We are urging people to either remove their nets altogether and share with wildlife so that the wildlife has the top fruit and the householder has the fruit that they can reach,” he said.

Vasilis Kanidiadis, of Vasili’s Garden TV program said the netting is a real threat to wildlife. “Netting over fruit trees really doesn’t work it tangles in the tree branches, damages the tree, and if it’s not tensioned properly it’s going to endanger wildlife. What people are doing now is getting PVC pipe-electrical pipe and then creating a cross arch over the tree and draping the netting over the top and pulling it tight over the base, this is a very effective way as it gives you an opportunity to have tight netting to stop any wildlife getting tangled.” Vasili said to Neos Kosmos.

“If you’re wise and love your garden then you will be able to pick your fruit and leave one or two up there for the wildlife to get to. We’ve got about 15-16 fruit trees here at the garden centre and we’ve never used netting at all, you might get two or three damaged fruit here and there and that’s about it. If your trees are healthy it should be producing an abundant amount of fruit, more than you can consume and at the end of the day, half of the fruit goes to waste because we don’t eat it all or preserve it properly,” added Vasilis.

The grey-headed flying fox is a protected species under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1998 and there is growing pressure to regulate against backyard fruit tree nets as they are seen as a trap for the animals. “These flying foxes are endangered animals, their numbers have dropped by 99 percent in the last few decades,” said Pope.

“They are in great need for their role in the environment in terms of their pollination and seed distribution behaviours. What we are asking people to do is if they have to net their fruit tree, to try and do it in a safe way and build a frame around the outside over the tree and put the netting over that. We can look after both the fruit and wildlife with a bit of thought and consideration.”