The Southern Cassowary is a major draw-card for tourists to Tropical North Queensland. This ancient creature is a world renowned mascot for our region.
Cassowaries are an endangered species. The small population that remains is struggling to survive. Lack of habitat, vehicle strikes and roaming dogs are killing the Cassowary at alarming rates.
Why are Cassowaries Important?
As well as their contribution to tourism, Cassowaries are a keystone species in the Wet Tropics and are also very significant to many Indigenous groups throughout North Queensland. Cassowaries play an important role in the Rainforest ecosystem, with up to 100 plant species relying solely on the Cassowary to distribute their seeds and ensure their own survival.
When a Southern Cassowary eats Rainforest fruit, the seed remains unharmed throughout the digestion process. As it takes around 10 hours for digestion to occur, seeds are almost guaranteed to be distributed some distance from the original location. This helps to ensure diversity throughout the Rainforest. When the seed is excreted, it is encased within the dung. This serves as a fertiliser pouch to assist in germination, as well as warding off any natural seed predators, such as the White Tailed Rat.
Threats to their Survival
Cassowaries face a number of threats to their survival. Sadly, these are all related to human activity.
- Loss of Habitat – Land clearing for farming, development or logging are the main threat to Cassowary survival. As Cassowaries are territorial, even those that may escape the immediate threat from land clearing are placed under increased amounts of stress as they are forced to compete with neighbouring birds for territory.
- Isolation of Habitat – Land clearing also creates other problems for the birds, as Rainforests are then distributed in isolated pockets, making it very difficult for Cassowaries to find food and establish new territories.
- Dogs – Dog attacks are the second highest cause of Cassowary deaths. Dog owners must be responsible for their animals and not allow them to roam.
- Feral Pigs – Pigs share many of the same sources of food as the Cassowary and in times when food may be scarce, this in itself creates huge problems for their survival. Feral pigs also destroy Cassowary nests, feeding on the eggs and have the potential to kill chicks and young birds.
- Vehicle Strikes – The placement of roads has divided the natural territories of the Southern Cassowary. When combined with loss of habitat due to land clearing, more Cassowaries make their way onto our roads. In times when food is scarce, or birds are struggling to establish territory, Cassowaries will forage from the road itself, adding to the already high number of casualties due to vehicle strikes.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Cassowaries need large areas of Rainforest in order to survive. We must protect existing habitats and reduce the number of deaths related to dogs and pigs. Brettacorp Inc. is establishing Cassowary habitats, to restore rainforest on cleared land and create corridors to link remaining patches of vegetation.
Become a Forest Friend today and help us help the Endangered Southern Cassowary. Your children, and their children will thank you for it.
Help Us Help the Endangered Southern Cassowary
*Minimum Donation $5
If you have any interesting stories about Cassowaries, we’d love to hear about them. Please leave a comment below.