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*From “The Flying Fox Dreaming” by Les A. Murray.

1New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1967, Hurstville, New South Wales, Australia 2220.

Forest managers have neglected the vital role of fruit-eating and blossom-feeding vertebrates as pollinators and seed dispersers in forest tree reproduction. Grey-headed Flying Foxes are obligate frugivores and nectarivores of eastern Australian forests. This study demonstrates their importance as long-distance seed dispersers of rainforest species and as long-distance pollen vectors of Eucalyptus and other Myrtaceae and Proteaceae species. Grey-headed Flying Foxes travel hundreds of kilometres annually to locate fruit and blossom which are unpredictably available in space and time. This nomadic migratory habit presents difficulties in their conservation. The current system of reserves within the range of Grey-headed Flying Foxes does not ensure their conservation, and while a reserve system designed to conserve biodiversity on a regional scale might provide for them, such a system is unlikely to be established in the near future. In the absence of such a reserve system, and in view of the continued alteration of eastern Australian forests, there is an urgent need to modify management practices in publicly and privately owned forests in order to conserve Grey-headed Flying Foxes, and to maintain the vital role they play as pollinators and seed dispersers.

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