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

KarlInSpace01web

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.

KarlInSpace02web

 

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

Casowary-uniappendiculatus

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.

MissionBeachCassowaries

 

50 meetings since 1996

The Cassowary Recovery Team met on 24 February 2015 and celebrated the 50th meeting of the cassowary team. Steve Russell,  the first chair of the Cassowary Advisory Group, explained how the Wet Tropics Management Authority had helped to form the group in 1996 to advocate for cassowary conservation and to advise the Authority’s Board. A major achievement of the group was to educate and engage the broader community to help look after the endangered cassowary population. Allen Sheather, also a former chair, has attended most of the 50 meetings.

In 2009 the Advisory Group was revamped to become the official Cassowary Recovery Team, responsible for implementing the Australian Government’s recovery plan and providing advice on cassowary conservation issues. Andrew Maclean, Executive Director of the Authority, has been the chair of the Cassowary Recovery Team since its inception.

Andrew Maclean, Allen Sheather and Steve Russell celebrate 50 meetings since 1996

Andrew Maclean, Allen Sheather and Steve Russell celebrate 50 meetings since 1996

Colin the Cassowary finds a new home

Anne O'Brien organising Colin's flight from Fiji

Anne O’Brien organising Colin’s flight from Fiji

Colin the Cassowary has kindly been donated to the Wet Tropics by artist Anne O’Brien from Fiji. Anne makes life-sized, realistic sculptures using recycled fabrics – see her anniemalsartist website. Colin is now on permanent loan to the Cassowary Recovery Team to help raise awareness of the plight of cassowaries.

Colin has already met the Threatened Species Commissioner, Gregory Andrews, at the Australian Birdfair in Sydney and is now being cared for by Kuranda Conservation.

Jax Bergersen, Gregory Andrews, Colin the Cassowary and Dianne Daniels at Birdfair Australia

Jax Bergersen, Gregory Andrews, Colin the Cassowary and Dianne Daniels at Birdfair Australia

Jax and Colin get to know each other

Jax and Colin get to know each other

Colin attends a Cassowary Recovery Team meeting

Colin attends a Cassowary Recovery Team meeting