Cyclone Yasi Response 14/06/11

CYCLONE YASI RESPONSE UPDATE FROM WTMA & DERM 14/06/11

The Cassowary Response Team has continued operations since Cyclone Yasi damaged large areas of cassowary habitat between Cardwell and Innisfail and at Mission Beach on 2 and 3 February 2011. At 14 June 2011, DERM had 104 active feed stations from the Cardwell Range north to Flying Fish Point. A total of more than 49,000 kg of fruit has been distributed.

The quantity of fruit delivered to feed stations during the program has recently been reviewed and this revised total is more accurate.

Recruitment has been undertaken to positions that will now operate the response effort over the coming 12 months. Team Leader Cassowary Response is Mr Hayden Ferguson who brings a wealth of experience in wildlife management to the program. Hayden will continue to be supported by existing staff in the short term to ensure an effective transition.

The forest is showing the early signs of recovery, with shoots, leaves and some flowering and fruiting developing. The eight permanent plot transects continue to be monitored monthly to identify forest and fruit recovery. Current levels of fruiting are still extremely low but flowering and limited fruiting is evident. Scats collected for CSIRO’s DNA analysis are also continuing to show approximately 30% native fruits. Cassowaries are clearly quite efficient at finding native fruit even with limited supplies.

Cameras monitoring the feed stations continue to show cassowaries using those sites, and reports from staff and landholders are also useful in verifying the frequency, level and type of use. Many feed stations are visited by multiple birds and all feed stations are showing some level of use.

Retailers Coles, Woolworths have donated fruit, and conservation organisation Rainforest Rescue has donated $10,000 to the program. This support is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

The community support to the DERM Cassowary Response Team has been nothing short of amazing. Volunteers have given more than 1600 hours to cut up the fruit, while 49 private landholders have feeding stations on their properties, with permission from DERM. The reports through the cassowary.sighting email address and the wildlife hotline have been an immense help in directing the response effort in regard to feed stations, identifying the locations for cassowary recent road crossing signs and building a data base of bird locations.

150 Cassowary sightings records received through the cassowary.sighting email account have been added into DERM’s wildlife records database, Wildnet. These records have been sourced from a total of 222 emails of which 150 have contained enough detail to provide a usable sighting record suitable for inclusion into Wildnet. These sightings represent an increase of approximately 15% to the cassowary records in the Wildnet database. A further 100 records have been plotted and these will be added into Wildnet in the near future.

A flyer regarding the Cassowary Response Program was distributed to 3500 properties across Tully and Mission beach areas around Easter time. The flyer is also available at Information Centres across the region and has been posted at key noticeboard locations. Copies are available from the DERM office in Innisfail.

Media interest in the program continues to be high. The program recently appeared on Channel 7’s ‘Creek to Coast’ and has been reported through Cairns and Townsville newspapers, ABC radio and TV, Channel 9 news, and filmed for documentaries by German and Japanese companies and National Geographic (US).

The message about not feeding these birds by hand or in backyards continues to need to be re-enforced and, this is a role for all to undertake. Cassowaries that come to expect food from humans can become aggressive and dangerous.

Regrettably we have seen several recent cassowary deaths from vehicle strike and one from dog attack so the messages “Please drive carefully in cassowary habitat” and ‘look after your dog’ is being reinforced.

To report a cassowary sighting, please email cassowary.sighting@derm.qld.gov.au  or to report a sick, injured or orphaned bird, call DERM on 1300-130372.

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