Cassowary Summit 2009

On 8 September 2009, the Wet Tropics Management Authority, in collaboration with the Cassowary Recovery Team, hosted a Cassowary Summit at The Tanks in Cairns.

Over 250 individuals representing science, tourism, conservation, education, Indigenous, community and government interests attended. The summit activities included a conference, a Q&A forum and a community festival.

The summit provided an opportunity to celebrate cassowary country and to raise community awareness about the importance of protecting cassowaries.

At the Q&A forum participants were invited to discuss and share views on how best to protect the cassowary; to share knowledge regarding social, environmental and cultural values of the cassowary and to show individuals how they can contribute to cassowary conservation.

The summit conveyed a number of strong messages by participants which included:

  1. It is not known if the Wet Tropics and Cape York Peninsula cassowary populations are stable, increasing or decreasing
  2. Little is known about the life history of the cassowary, even though it is an iconic species with World Heritage values in the Wet Tropics
  3. Traditional Owners of the Wet Tropics have strong connections to the cassowary and the species is very important to their well-being and culture. Traditional Owners want to be involved in decision-making relating to the cassowary and to participate in cassowary research
  4. The regional community values the cassowary and it is important to involve them in cassowary conservation to ensure their continued support and to capitalise on their energy and knowledge
  5. The tourism industry regards the cassowary as a wildlife icon for the Wet Tropics. Seeing a cassowary in the wild (which is usually next to a road) enhances the experience of visitors to the region while cassowaries presented in zoos provide educational and interpretive opportunities
  6. Cassowaries need habitat. However, current Commonwealth and State Planning instruments do not adequately protect cassowary habitat from clearing or fragmentation
  7. Captive breeding is not a high priority for cassowary conservation at the present time, although captive cassowary exhibits in zoos may contribute to community awareness of the in-situ conservation needs of the species.

On the day following the summit, WTMA convened an expert workshop for an exchange of perspectives regarding cassowary monitoring, science and research priorities. A group of 25 scientists, land managers and cassowary conservation advocates were invited to discuss the issue of what population and habitat indicators should we monitor for tracking Cassowary recovery? The group prepared a communiqué identifying priority actions for decision makers.

The group also discussed broader conservation approaches and actions to mobilise support for the government and the community to explore pathways to plan a future for the cassowary which align with the Cassowary Recovery Plan.

The group stressed the need for Commonwealth and State government commitment to implementing the recovery plan and congratulated WTMA in their support for facilitating the re-establishment of the Cassowary Recovery Team to implement the Recovery Plan.