Garners Beach cassowaries

The Cassowary Recovery Facility at Garners Beach is currently home to five chicks and one adult.

Two more very young chicks have arrived in the past two weeks. One from Licuala National Park is now eating and running around quite well after ten days. Another chick arrived a few days ago from Hull Heads, found in a back yard going on dark. The owner of the property had never seen an adult cassowary on his property ever before.  The chick came into the veterinary surgery quite weak and dehydrated.  After an evening of apple, banana and supplements and a quick lesson from the veterinary nurses on how to pick up food off the ground, the chick had made an amazing recovery.  A physical exam  showed the chick to be quite bright and feisty by morning.

The young chick from Hull Heads

The young chick from Hull Heads – Photo courtesy of Graham Lauridsen

The two chicks will be kept in adjacent pens for a week or so until the quarantine period has passed and then they will be placed together so they can grow up like siblings.

Yesterday, a six-foot female cassowary was taken to the recovery facility after being hit by a car near South Mission Beach. She was assessed by local veterinarian, Dr Graham Lauridsen, and it is hoped she will make a full recovery. Fortunately, the Department of Environment and Heritage had recently made improvements to the facility so it can once again accept adult birds.

You can read more in this media release about the Queensland Government commitment of up to $50,000 for  cassowary rehabilitation to keep the Garners Beach centre running.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has put out a Cassowary Rehabilitation Expression of Interest to provide for financial sponsorship, rehabilitation services or organisational support at the Garners Beach Cassowary Recovery Facility.

The young chick from Hull Heads

The young chick from Hull Heads – Photo courtesy of Graham Lauridsen

World Cassowary Day – Saturday 26 September 2015

World Cassowary Day will be celebrated in Mission Beach on Saturday 26 September 2015.

The event is being hosted by C4 (Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation) at the C4 Environment Centre and arboretum next door by the beach.

It is an opportunity to share information about the cassowary’s life history, conservation status and pathways to survival. ‘We want it to be a catalyst for concerted action to save one of our most valuable creatures’ said Peter Rowles from C4.

There will be lots of displays, guest speakers, competitions, Aboriginal dancing, stories, native animals, music and food.

Anyone interested in helping with World Cassowary Day or wanting to have display stalls is invited to contact C4 on 07 40687197 or Peter Rowles on 0429 179152.

For details, see the World Cassowary Day website and Facebook page.

Three new cassowary chicks at Garners Beach

Photo: Emily Judson

Photo: Emily Judson

The Garners Beach Cassowary Recovery Facility now has three chicks in care. Two of these chicks came from South Mission Beach where they had been wandering alone without any father for several days. They were brought in to the Tully Veterinary Clinic for assessment where Dr Graham Lauridsen found them to be quite emaciated, but not actually suffering from any significant issues. They were they taken to Garners Beach where they have been raised and fed since November last year.

The third chick was found on Etty Bay road after being hit by a car. It was cared for by a wildlife ranger overnight and brought to the Tully Veterinary Clinic for assessment. Radiographs revealed a fracture in the spine. Thankfully, the fracture was low down in the spine and, after several days of attentive care, the chick was also placed into care at Garners Beach.

The three cassowary chicks are prospering and hanging out together. They have been weighed, microchipped and wormed. The chicks will stay at Garners Beach for the rest of the year and will be released back into the wild once they are big and strong enough to look after themselves. Researchers hope to track the chicks after their release using GPS technology to see where they move to and how they survive the vulnerable young adult phase of their lives.

Many thanks to Rainforest Rescue which continues to provide funding for the care of the cassowary chicks and operates the recovery facility under an agreement with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. Money raised through the Save the Cassowary campaign goes to help keep the recovery facility working.

Photo: Emily Judson

Photo: Emily Judson

Photo: Graham Lauridsen

Photo: Graham Lauridsen

First cassowary in space


Karl, the flightless cassowary, was launched into space from beyond the Black Stump in New South Wales on 8 March 2015. He reached 34,780m above the earth, a record for the high altitude ballooning team and thoroughly enjoyed his first solo flight (he has travelled by Jetstar before).

Karl is the mascot for World Cassowary Day which highlights the plight of the endangered southern cassowary. World Cassowary Day will be held at Mission Beach on Saturday 26 September 2015.

Watch Karl ascend to the heavens at First Cassowary in Space – YouTube

Many thanks to Paul Webster from Kuranda Conservation for arranging the space flight. You can learn his love for the cassowary and the planning for the flight at Space cassowary.



How many cassowaries are there in the Wet Tropics?

Cassowary, Photo: Campbell Clarke

The Wet Tropics is home to about 4,400 cassowaries, with a minimum of five percent being the year’s youngsters. The figure is based on several years of monitoring and DNA analysis by Dr David Westcott and his team of researchers at CSIRO under the National Environmental Research Program.

Their Wet Tropics surveys  covered 1886 kilometres and 156 transects. They recorded 1444 cassowary signs (dung, feathers, tracks and sightings). They also did 170 surveys of focus sites and recorded 296 signs of cassowaries. The DNA of 435 sub-samples was analysed from 134 different dung samples.

Management implications

Cassowary juvenile, Photo: Campbell Clarke

What do the population numbers mean for cassowary conservation?

  • The population estimate is consistent with the upper range of previous estimates undertaken 20 years ago.
  • While these cassowary population numbers are larger than have been often quoted, they are still small enough to place the cassowary at risk from chance events such as cyclones, genetic effects, and increasingly fragmented habitat.
  • The conservation status of the cassowary remains endangered and populations are likely to decrease if habitat fragmentation worsens and cyclones become more intense or more frequent with climate change.
  • Future investment in cassowary management should focus on cassowary habitat protection and connectivity.
  • A regular cassowary monitoring program (for local focus sites and the Wet Tropics region) is essential to track population trends and life histories.
  • Cassowary monitoring with Traditional Owners in Cape York should be established to survey the increasingly fragmented populations in areas such as the McIlwraith Range.
Project 3.4 Final Report - Estimation of the population size and distribution of the southern cassowary, Casuarius casuarius, in the Wet Tropics Region of Australia

Project 3.4 Final Report – Estimation of the population size and distribution of the southern cassowary, Casuarius casuarius, in the Wet Tropics Region of Australia


You can download the full report above or visit the NERP website for more information.

Reference: Westcott, D., Metcalfe, S., Jones, D., Bradford, M., McKeown, A., Ford, A. (2014) Estimation of the population size and distribution of the southern cassowary, Casuarius casuarius, in the Wet Tropics Region of Australia Project © CSIRO

Inside the cassowary’s casque


Scientific American published Inside the cassowary’s casque by Darren Naish on its blog on 15 February 2015.

The article discusses the evolution of the various cassowary species and the anatomy of the cassowary casque and how it may be used. It emphasises that we still have a lot to learn about all these facets of cassowary research.

You can also download a copy of the research below:

Darren Naish & Richard Perron (2014) Structure and function of the cassowary’s casque and its implications for cassowary history, biology and evolution

Mission Beach Cassowaries

Mission Beach Cassowaries website Photo: Liz Gallie

Mission Beach Cassowaries website Photo: Liz Gallie

The Mission Beach Cassowaries website and  Facebook page offer a wealth of information about cassowaries. They collect daily information about local birds and their movements and behaviour. The site has over 900 members who can contribute stories, sightings and photos. Cassowary sightings and incidents are recorded and mapped to help us understand more about their behaviour and promote their conservation.

Mission Beach Cassowaries plays a major role in community education and participation in cassowary conservation. It also contributes to local government planning and campaigns to prevent further cassowary deaths from road accidents and dog attacks.

Visit the Mission Beach Cassowaries website for more information and join in the discussions on its Facebook page.