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Confusion over number of flying foxes pushes question of endangered status

A debate has opened over the endangered status of flying foxes in Australia, as ten horses have died within a month from the hendra virus contracted from the bats, according to a report in Australian Broadcasting Corporation News. As the flying foxes are considered endangered, farmers and citizens cannot trap or harm them.

Scientists are asking farmers and horse owners to take precautions and keep their horses from grazing under the large fig trees the flying foxes are known to inhabit, the news source reports. Heated debates over the the status of the flying foxes, which are said to damage farmer's crops, have led to calls for recounts of their population.

Some ecologists note that the animal may not be endangered anymore. Chris Tidemann, wildlife ecologist, said that "over the last few years, there's been a steady increase in the presence of grey-headed flying foxes ...Animals are not just camping [in new places] but dropping young [there]." He estimates that millions of flying foxes are currently in the wild.

Inaccurate numbers have led to confusion over just how many flying foxes live in Australia. According to World Wildlife Fund estimates, the distribution of the flying fox collapsed drastically in the 1990s. There were approximately 400,000 flying foxes in the entire country, according to a 1998 survey. 
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