Cassowary close encounter

Issued: 18 May 2021

The Department of Environment and Science (DES) is urging people not to feed cassowaries following a close encounter between bushwalkers and a large bird on the Atherton Tablelands.

Senior Wildlife Officer Dinouk Perera said the video taken in May showed the cassowary following four bushwalkers for seven minutes along a walking track, near Windin Falls in the Wooroonooran National Park.

“The video shows the bird often approaching within a metre of the group of bushwalkers as they retreated along the track,” Mr Perera said.

“Wildlife officers have confirmed the cassowary’s behaviour indicates it has become habituated to being fed by people.”

“A cassowary that wasn’t habituated would never approach bushwalkers, and would have retreated into the forest to avoid such an encounter.

“This was an unnerving incident for the bushwalkers and they did the right thing by remaining calm and moving away until the cassowary realised it wasn’t going to be fed.

“Cassowaries are unpredictable, potentially dangerous animals and habituated birds have been known to act aggressively and lash out if they don’t receive a feed when confronting people in the forest.

“Feeding cassowaries can significantly change their behaviour in such a way that other people will be placed at risk of being approached and potentially attacked by the birds.

Mr Perera said wildlife officers last week conducted a letterbox drop of residents near the Windin Falls car park, urging them not to feed cassowaries and warning of the dangers of doing so.

People need to understand that male cassowaries teach their chicks how to find natural foods in the forest, and if the male is being fed by people, his chicks will learn to approach people for food,” he said.

“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.

“We have also investigated recent reports that people around Kuranda were feeding cut fruit to cassowaries and enticing them to stay around residential areas.

Chopped fruit, such as bananas and apples are completely unsuitable foods for cassowaries.

“Cassowaries are classified as endangered in the Wet Tropics and every time a bird is deliberately fed by people, they become more vulnerable to vehicle strikes or dog attacks.

“Forty-six cassowaries have been killed or injured by vehicle strikes in the past two years near Kuranda and Mission Beach, and wildlife officers believe many of those cassowaries had been habituated by people deliberately feeding them.

“The most recent cassowary road strike in Far North Queensland occurred at Millaa Millaa this morning and unfortunately that animal had to be euthanised.”

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