10 September 2009
Following the Cassowary Summit on 9 September, a Cassowary Research Workshop was convened. A group of 25 scientists, policy makers and cassowary advocates were invited to discuss what population and habitat indicators should we monitor for tracking Cassowary recovery? Although the purpose of the meeting was focused on this question, additional discussion on the day included lessons learnt from the Cassowary Summit and a broader conversation about actions for ensuring cassowary recovery.
The following individuals participated on the day: Mr Leonard Andy, Mrs Shayne Allanson, Dr Alastair Birtles, Mr Peter Buosi, Mr Max Chappell, Ms Liesl Codrington, Mr Adam Cowell, Dr Miriam Goosem, Dr Steve Goosem, Prof Iain Gordon, Dr Denise Hardesty, Dr Graham Harrington, Dr Elaine Harding, Ms Mellissa Jess, Mr Bruce Jennison, Dr Graham Laurisden, Mr Peter Latch, Dr Andy Mack, Mr Andrew Millerd, Mr Tony O’Malley, Mr Martin Paull, Mr Alan Sheather, Mr Daryn Storch, Ms Ellen Weber, Dr David Westcott, Dr Deb Wright and Dr Peter Young.
After small group discussions focused on the primary question, workshop participants came together to identify key issues, research and information needs which could support cassowary recovery. Here are the key issues identified:
Monitoring population trends of cassowaries at key strategic sites is critical:
- there is a need to develop standardised monitoring using a consistent and agreed methodology
- scat-DNA is likely to be an important tool for calibrating population estimates regardless of the monitoring method employed
- other complementary and innovative methods such as cameras, micro-chipping, feather snag-trapping and bio-acoustics should also be investigated.
Design and implement a monitoring program over the cassowaries’ range which operates at a range of scales – continental, regional and local:
- a broad-scale survey (possibly every 10 years) to confirm the species’ distribution (i.e., presence/absence)
- regular monitoring of core populations, possibly at shorter intervals
- intensive population studies need to be conducted to allow estimation of population parameters (e.g. age specific mortality, recruitment and survival), documentation of habitat use and preferences, and response to management. With sufficient resources work at two or more locations would provide insights into effects of landscape context, fragmented versus continuous or lowland versus upland.
Effective use of existing data on cassowary ecology and management is important:
- develop a central repository for data storage and retrieval by all users
- consider the creation of a State of the Cassowary report card
- ensure that the Cassowary Recovery Team is well-informed and supported to carry the research agenda forward.
Partnerships with Traditional Owners and the local community are critical for success in the program. We need to incorporate their knowledge and skills in developing and implementing the research agenda:
- the critical roles and rights of Traditional Owners are recognised and their knowledge incorporated into the design of monitoring programs.
- the community is an asset. We should use their skills to assist with research and in providing information back into local communities.
Enhanced partnerships with international cassowary experts and agencies:
- link cassowary conservation across continents (e.g. IUCN ratite specialist groups).
- investigate alternate/new and existing methods for monitoring similarly cryptic species.
There is a need to clarify relationships between management actions to address threats/pressures and landscape scale population responses:
- ideally the ‘intensively-studied’ populations should include comparisons between sites with threats/no-threats or management actions/no actions if possible.
- utilise and integrate existing data already available to increase knowledge, i.e., dead animals, captive birds, and cassowary sightings by community
There needs to be a commitment to funding.
- a committed funding stream should be established. International funding sources and joint funding arrangements should be explored.
We need to start work now
To develop these research issues into a clear set of steps, with a budget and detailed research agenda, the group request that the Cassowary Recovery Team:
- review these recommendations and convene a subgroup to develop a full proposal (this may include members of the research workshop who are not on the Cassowary Recovery Team)
- liaise with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DERM) and the Department of the Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts (DEWHA)* in developing an approach that complements the Recovery Plan and emphasises the need for landscape-scale issues.
* the relevant Commonwealth Department is now the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPAC).