Rehabilitated cassowary released into the wild

Issued: 7 May 2020


A young cassowary rescued by Department of Environment and Science (DES) wildlife officers from a property near Mission Beach in far north Queensland has been successfully rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

In April 2019, the property owner called the DES wildlife hotline after observing the cassowary limping, losing condition, and falling behind its family group as the father led their foraging.

The southern cassowary is listed as endangered in the Wet Tropics region and with an estimated 4400 cassowaries left in the wild, every cassowary is precious.

A local veterinarian was called and assessed the bird’s injury as potentially fatal without immediate medical treatment.

The young male cassowary was captured by wildlife officers, and taken to the Garner’s Beach Cassowary Rehabilitation Centre for treatment and recuperation.

In September 2019, after the foot injury had healed and he had gained weight and improved in condition, the bird was transferred to Tablelands Cassowary Facility operated by Rainforest Reserves Australia.

The cassowary spent about eight months in the facility’s 30-hectare rainforest rehabilitation area, learning to live without human assistance and forage for his own food.

By late April 2020, when the cassowary was a sub-adult and was old enough to leave a family group and find his own territory, it was decided to release him.

Importantly, it was assessed that the bird was not habituated and therefore unlikely to approach humans for food after its release, reducing the risk of being attacked by a pet dog or being struck by a vehicle.

The cassowary had been rescued from Djiru country around Mission Beach, and wildlife officers consulted with Djiru Traditional Owners to determine the best location for release.

A suitable location was found away from roads and residences with a good supply of native fruit, access to water, and habitat connectivity for free movement through the rainforest.

The cassowary was released back into the wild on 29 April, taking to the forest without a backwards glance.

The Queensland Government allocates over $500,000 annually for cassowary rescue and rehabilitation in the Wet Tropics region, including for Garner’s Beach Cassowary Centre.

Cassowaries are perfectly designed for rainforest living and perform a vital ecological role as a ‘rainforest gardener’ by eating rainforest fruits, some of which are poisonous to other animals, and dispersing the seeds in their droppings.

Be Cass-o-wary!!

  • Don’t approach cassowaries – they are very unpredictable.
  • Don’t approach chicks – the father will be nearby and may defend them fiercely.
  • Never feed cassowaries – it is against the law, potentially dangerous for people and has led to cassowary deaths.
  • Discard food scraps in closed bins in cassowary country and ensure compost bins have secure lids.
  • Slow down and be on the look-out when driving in southern cassowary territory.
  • Never stop your vehicle to look at southern cassowaries on the road.
  • Keep dogs behind fences or on a leash.
  • If you come face-to-face with an aggressive bird, it's important to have some simple strategies to protect yourself. It is best to back away slowly and put something like a tree, a backpack between yourself and the bird, and let it go on its way.

To report a cassowary sighting please call 1300 130 372. Your report will contribute to citizen science aimed at reducing the number of cassowaries killed on our roads.