Be Cass-o-Wary and stop feeding cassowaries

Issued: 30 Mar 2021

The Department of Environment and Science (DES) is reminding people in cassowary country to be Cass-O-Wary and stop deliberately feeding the endangered birds.

Director of Northern Wildlife Operations, Lindsay Delzoppo, said wildlife officers are disappointed by reports that people around Kuranda have been deliberately enticing and feeding non-native fruit to cassowaries.

“Some people genuinely believe they are helping cassowaries and contributing to cassowary conservation by feeding them, but this is not the case,” Mr Delzoppo said.

“The birds need to be foraging for their own food in the rainforest and not in urban areas around Kuranda and Mission Beach waiting for a feed of chopped fruit.

“In the past two years, 45 cassowaries, including 24 chicks and juvenile animals have been killed or injured by vehicle strikes near Kuranda and Mission Beach.

“Wildlife officers believe many of these vehicle strikes were due to the cassowaries hanging around urban areas because people were deliberately feeding them.

“The maximum penalty for deliberately feeding a cassowary is $5,222, and we’re asking people to report deliberate cassowary feeding by calling 1300 130 372.”

Dr Graham Lauridsen from Tropical Vets said six recent necropsies of deceased cassowaries provided evidence that humans were having an impact on local populations of these birds.

“A deceased bird from the Mission Beach area was full of passionfruit, chopped up mango and pear, and the deceased birds from the Kuranda area also had cut up fruit in their stomachs,” Dr Lauridsen said.

“Those six deceased cassowaries had clearly been encouraged to come into urban areas when they have no reason to be there, and then they’d been fed by locals.

“Local landcare groups, wildlife organisations and the Department are putting a lot of effort into cassowary conservation and it’s being undone by locals who think the cassowaries need feeding.”

Mr Delzoppo said feeding cassowaries in urban and semi-urban areas can habituate the birds and cause them to approach people with the expectation of receiving food.

“This places cassowaries in danger by leaving them vulnerable to vehicle strikes and dog attacks, and they can also behave in an unpredictable way.

“Several years ago, a large cassowary began kicking at the doors and windows of a man’s house at Mission Beach, and knocked him down an embankment.

“The man had just moved into the house and it was clear that the previous inhabitant had been feeding the bird, which was captured by wildlife officers and transferred to a national park.

“The species is classified as endangered in the Wet Tropics and we’re asking people to leave cassowaries alone and let them live their natural lives in the rainforest, as they have done for millions of years.”

Cassowary sightings should be reported to DES by calling 1300 130 372.