What with the Bomb Cyclone and other storms, the U.S. and several countries in Europe are currently feeling the extreme cold. However, in contrast, Australia is experiencing an extreme heat wave, with Sydney seeing temperatures of 117 degrees Sunday, the hottest day in that city since 1939. There have been stories of brush fires near Melbourne and a section of highway melting in the heat, but the heat wave is also having a bad effect on wildlife, most particularly the flying fox bat population.

Bats dying and falling from the trees

As reported by ABC News, bats are literally falling from the trees due to the heat wave and in southern Queensland, the RSPCA estimates that hundreds of thousands of flying fox bats died over the past weekend.

Reports quote up to 100,000 bats as having died in 25 separate colonies in the area.

The extreme heat has also killed more than 400 of the flying fox bats in Campbelltown, Sydney, as they either fell from the trees or left their young in a desperate search for water to drink or cool down in.

Heat fries bats’ brains

As reported by the Camden Narellan Advertiser, Kate Ryan, a bat colony manager in Campbelltown, told them the bats “basically boil.” She added that the heat affects their brain, which literally fries causing the bats to become incoherent.

The Washington Post reports that the animals have difficulty regulating their internal body temperatures with the heat of over 104 degrees, but on top of that, habitat loss has caused the bats to move further away from life-saving rivers and lakes.

That report says the loss of so many bats could have a serious effect on the ecosystem, as bats are an important element of plant pollination in that area of Australia.

Catastrophic effects on the ecosystem from dying bats

Speaking for the RSPCA, Michael Beatty stressed that this is a significant risk to the bat population in south-east Queensland, calling it a “catastrophe” for the bat colonies.

He said the heat wave is having a disturbing impact on the colonies and the ecosystem in general. On top of this, the stench of bat carcasses is also becoming a problem for local residents. Not only are the carcasses falling to the ground, but also hundreds of the flying foxes are lying dead in trees and bushes, where they are being consumed by maggots.

But it’s not just the smell – after coming into contact with bats, around 16 residents in the area are currently receiving anti-viral treatment. The local health department is warning residents not to touch the bats and to get in touch with local authorities for help in their removal.

ABC News quotes Sammy Ringer of Bat Rescue as telling people to get in touch with a vet or wildlife volunteer and to not touch suffering, but not yet dead animals, as they are stressed. Ringer said if the bats do scratch or bite a person, breaking the skin, they can have a vaccination for lyssavirus, carried by the flying fox bats.