Research to help celebrate World Cassowary Day

Issued: 26 Sep 2020

To help celebrate World Cassowary Day, the Department of Environment and Science (DES) is building a new cassowary rehabilitation enclosure and researching new methods to reduce the number of cassowaries struck by vehicles.

Manager Wildlife and Threatened Species Operations Michael Joyce said the iconic blue, black and red southern cassowary is thought to be a relic of the age of dinosaurs, and plays a unique role in maintaining the rich biodiversity of Queensland’s World Heritage Wet Tropics rainforest.

“Queensland is the only Australian state where these iconic, massive, flightless birds can be found in the wild, and tourists come to catch a glimpse of a cassowary,” Mr Joyce said.

“Unfortunately, cassowaries do become victims of vehicle strikes and DES is researching cassowary sighting hotspots and exploring better ways of preventing and responding to cassowary incidents.

“The research includes the use of drones, satellite tracking of cassowaries, and detailed vegetation analysis and habitat mapping.

“In 2020, QPWS wildlife officers have responded to 280 cassowary sighting reports, which is an increase of 125 per cent on 2019 reports.

“Wildlife officers have also conducted more than 100 field operations in response to incidents involving sick, injured or abandoned cassowaries in the wild.

“Wildlife officers have developed a fully equipped ‘cassowary ambulance’ with an air-conditioned compartment to keep cassowaries cool, which can be sent out at short notice.

Mr Joyce said the new cassowary chick enclosure under construction at the Garner’s Beach Cassowary Rehabilitation Centre will boost the chances of rehabilitated chicks being successfully returned to their rainforest environment.

“The new 225m2 cassowary chick holding pen has been specifically designed to support the successful rehabilitation of juvenile birds with virtually no contact with wildlife officers,” he said.

“This will help improve rehabilitation outcomes by preventing the chicks from associating the presence of humans with food.

“The sub-adult cassowaries in rehabilitation at Garner’s Beach were rescued by wildlife officers last year, one from Mission Beach which had been hit by a car and the other from the Daintree Rainforest, which had an abdominal injury.

“When these rescued chicks were placed together in February 2020, they scuffled and dashed about but they have now bonded successfully and are behaving as if they were siblings.

“Wildlife officers and volunteers from local conservation group, C4 are constantly monitoring their condition and it’s hoped they can be released this summer when there’s plenty of fruit in the rainforest.

“The Queensland Government allocates more than $500,000 annually to support cassowary rescue and rehabilitation in the Wet Tropics region.”

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

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 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.