“Twelve months have now passed since Cyclone Yasi damaged large areas of cassowary habitat between Cardwell and Innisfail and at Mission Beach on 2 and 3 February 2011.
The forest is showing significant signs of recovery. Trees now contain significant re-growth, and flowering and fruit development continue to increase, highlighting the resilience of these forests. However, due to the significant damage to the forest caused by the cyclone, the supply of rainforest fruits is still at a low level.
To supplement the cassowaries’ diet during this low food period without making them dependent on handouts, DERM is continuing to supply fruit to feed stations but is progressively reducing the number of feed stations where cassowaries are no longer using these stations and where natural fruit levels are adequate.
Feed stations are supplied with fruit approximately every three days, and amounts are varied to ensure the birds keep up their natural foraging. Cassowary scats (droppings), collected as part of monitoring and research, increasingly show native fruits are dominating the cassowaries’ diet.
At 14 February 2012, DERM had 67 active feed stations from the Cardwell Range north to Flying Fish Point. At the peak of the program 105 feed stations were operating.
More than 153,000 kg of fruit has been distributed averaging almost 3000 kg per week. In the early phase of the program, retailers Coles, Woolworths and Bi-Lo donated fruit. However, the need outgrew their ability to supply. Volunteers have now given more than 4770 hours to cut up the fruit and the work load has been so significant that a fruit cutting machine has been used to help out.
Ten motion sensing cameras monitored the feed stations and have revealed very useful information about the use of the feed stations and numbers of birds in the areas. Rangers have even been able to capture footage of adults feeding their chicks.
A ranger captured some remarkable footage of a male cassowary feeding his chicks at a supplementary feeding station after Cyclone Yasi:
[There is also a longer clip of the raw footage.]
Orphaned chicks and injured birds are being cared for at a DERM facility at Mission Beach.
Conservation organisation Rainforest Rescue has donated $10,000 to the feeding program.
The community is helping the DERM Cassowary Response Team’s coordinated response. In addition to the volunteers’ efforts, 55 private landholders have feeding stations on their properties, with permission from DERM. Residents are reporting cassowary sightings so birds can be better managed in the wild and so DERM can alert motorists.
Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor, you are reminded not to feed these birds, for your own safety. Cassowaries that come to expect food from humans can become aggressive and dangerous.
Please drive carefully in cassowary habitat to avoid hitting birds as they cross roads through rainforest.
To report a cassowary sighting, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or to report a sick, injured or orphaned cassowary, call 1300-130372.”