The Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii is listed as a threatened species internationally and under State and Commonwealth legislation in Australia.
The southern cassowary is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Although the species is not listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), export of live cassowaries is prohibited by law in Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Commonwealth of Australia
The cassowary is listed as Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
Actions that may affect the cassowary or its habitat (for example upgrading a road) have to be referred to the Commonwealth of Australia under the EPBC Act and reviewed against Significant impact guidelines for the endangered southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) Wet Tropics population.
A recovery plan has been prepared to ensure recovery of the southern cassowary and is set out in accordance with Part 13, Division 5 of the EPBC Act.
The stated overall objective of the cassowary recovery plan is to ‘protect cassowaries, habitats and corridors from threats through better planning, monitoring and community involvement’. The recovery plan states the necessary actions required to protect important populations of cassowaries, as well as how to manage and reduce threatening processes. The recovery plan provides a planned and logical framework for key interest groups and government agencies to coordinate their work. The Cassowary Recovery Team coordinates implementation of the recovery plan.
State of Queensland
The Wet Tropics population of the cassowary is listed as Endangered under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992 and it is ranked as a critical priority by the Department of Environment and Resource Management. The Cape York populations are listed as Vulnerable and are ranked as a medium priority.
The main reason for the difference in conservation status at these different scales, is because of the different criteria for listing. However, another challenge in assessing the conservation status of the cassowary is that we don’t have an accurate population estimate of the species due to the difficulty of monitoring the species in dense tropical rainforest and remote and rugged terrain.
On the basis of available scientific information, a realistic estimate of the total number of mature cassowaries remaining in Australia is in the region of 1,500-2,000 individuals. Although the rate of habitat loss has slowed, the population is still in decline due to the impacts of fragmentation and other ongoing threats.
The cassowary is considered a keystone species by conservationists because of its critical role in maintaining the ecological balance of the rainforest. Protecting cassowary habitat and food plants benefits many other rainforest plants and animals.