Environment Australia, 1999
ISBN 0 642 2546 363
Taxon summary: Coastal Sheathtail Bat
Scientific name: Taphozous australis Gould, 1854
Common name: Coastal Sheathtail Bat
Conservation status: Lower Risk (near threatened)
Past range and abundance
Unknown but probably similar to present range (for general distribution see Hall 1983, Richards 1995). Type locality is Albany Island off Cape York (for details see Troughton 1925 and Tate 1952). This species is apparently endemic to Australia, as the origin of a single specimen from ‘New Guinea’ (Dobson 1878) has been queried by Troughton (1925).
Present range and abundance
The species occurs along a very narrow but extended coastal zone from Shoalwater Bay in Queensland (Catling et al. 1994), as far north as Moa Island in the Torres Strait (Conder 1994). Also occurs on numerous off shore islands throughout the range (Grimes 1973, Schulz 1991, Hall 1997, Churchill pers. comm.). The dependence on coastal roosts results in the range of this species extending no more than a few kilometres inland (Richards 1995). As such, this species may be unevenly distributed throughout its range. In the northern part of its range this species is in caves on off-shore islands (Hall 1997). In the central part of its range between Townsville and Cooktown, it has been frequently found roosting in sea caves e.g. in more than 100 sea caves from a total of 600 caves searched (Clague unpub.). However, in a search of the coastline from Cooktown to Cape York (1996–98) only a small number of caves were found to be inhabited by this species (Hall unpub.). In the southern part of its range e.g. at Shoalwater Bay in central Queensland, it is has been regarded as ‘abundant’ to ‘uncommon’ (Catling et al. 1994). Colony sizes have been found to be small (generally less than 20 individuals) and current estimates of population size varies from 1200 (Richards unpub.) to more than 2500 (Clague and Coles unpub.).
This species apparently prefers to roost in sea caves and rocky clefts although it is also known to roost in boulder piles (e.g. at Cape Melville, Little and Hall 1996), buildings (such as the CSR Sugar mill in Cairns), mines (e.g. Possession Is., Noble Is.) and old WWII bunkers (e.g. at Portland Roads and on several Torres Strait islands, Richards and Hall unpub.). Details of its roosting requirements are not well known but most roosts are shallow and partially lighted. It forages only a few kilometres inland from the coast and populations may be localised due to the uneven distribution of roosts along the coastline (including off shore islands).
There is no documented widespread decline of the species. However, at one site in the Cape Hillsborough National Park (Hoye 1985), an observed decline may be due to human visitation. The negative effects of human disturbance on roosts have also been observed at a colony near Townsville, and are thought to have caused a 50% decline in numbers (Hall unpub.). The loss of foraging habitat through coastal development and sand mining, and roost disturbance (with increasing human access to the coast) may pose threats to this species in the central and southern parts of its distribution.
- Carry out ecological research to determine:
- habitat requirements;
- roost and maternity site selection;
- foraging strategy;
- population dynamics; and
- threatening processes.
- Protect a selection of known roosts from disturbance, especially if confirmed as maternity sites.
- Establish a long term monitoring program to assess population changes.
Catling P.C., Mason I.J., Richards G.C., Schodde R. and Wombey J.C. 1994. Research Report 4: The land vertebrate fauna of the eastern dunefields and tidal zone. pp. 117–172 in: Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry Shoalwater Bay, Capricornia Coast, Queensland. Report No.5 Volume A Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
Chimimba C.T. and Kitchener D.J. 1991. A systematic revision of Australian Emballonuridae (Mammalia: Chiroptera). Records of the Western Australian Museum 15, 203–265.
Conder P. 1994. With Wings on their Fingers: an Intimate View of the Flying-fox. Angus and Robertson, Pymble, NSW.
De Vis C.W. 1905. Bats. Annals of the Queensland Museum 6, 36–40.
Dobson G.E. 1878. Catalogue of the Chiroptera in the Collection of the British Museum. Taylor and Francis, London.
Grimes K.G. 1973. Torres Strait – sea caves. Down Under 12, 13–14.
Hall L.S. 1983. North-eastern Sheathtail-bat Taphozous australis. p. 311 in R. Strahan (Ed.) The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals. Angus & Robertson, Sydney.
Hall L.S. 1997. A fauna survey of the off shore islands of eastern Cape York peninsula. Report to Marine Parks and Coastal Management, Queensland Department of Environment (unpublished).
Hall L.S., Richards G.C., McKenzie N.L. and Dunlop N. 1997. The importance of abandoned mines as habitat for bats. pp. 326–333 in P. Hale and D. Lamb (Eds) Conservation Outside Nature Reserves. Centre for Conservation Biology, University of Queensland, Brisbane.
Hoye G. 1985. Observations on bats of Cape Hillsborough National Park, Queensland. Macroderma 1, 48–50.
Little L. and Hall L.S. 1996. Preliminary observations on the bats of Cape Melville National Park. Queensland Naturalist 34, 53–57.
Richards G.C. 1995. Coastal Sheathtail-bat Taphozous australis. pp. 471–472 in R. Strahan (Ed.) The Mammals of Australia. Reed Books, Chatswood, NSW.
Schulz M. 1991. Notes on nesting colonies of the White-rumped swiftlet at Dunk Island. Sunbird 21, 10–12.
Tate G.H.H. 1952. Results of the Archbold expeditions No.66 Mammals of Cape York Peninsula, with notes on the occurrence of rain forest in Queensland. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 98, 563–616.
Troughton E. Le G. 1925. A revision of the genera Taphozous and Saccolaimus (Chiroptera) in Australia and New Guinea, including a new species, and a note on two Malayan forms. Records of the Australian Museum 14, 313–341.
Authors for the species