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RAISED $ - OUR GOAL $500,000

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Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii)

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OUR CONSERVATION STATUS
  • National: Endangered
  • State: Endangered (southern population) (QLD)
HOW MANY OF US ARE THERE?

< 2,000 individuals

WHERE DO WE LIVE?

The Southern Cassowary occurs in Cape York and the Wet Tropics. In Cape York, it occurs in two areas, the northern Cape York Peninsula and the eastern Cape York Peninsula.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Southern Cassowary is a large flightless bird and is the largest native vertebrate in Australian rainforests. Adults can stand up to 2 m tall, with males weighing up to 55 kg and females up to 76 kg. Adults have draping, shiny black plumage with naked blue skin on the neck and head and long red wattles. A tall bony helmet forms on the heads of maturing birds and continues to grow with age. Their legs are heavy, with three toes, the inside of which bears a large dagger-shaped claw.

The Southern Cassowary is territorial and solitary, with contact between mature individuals generally only tolerated during mating. Females appear to be dominant in social interactions.

OUR HABITAT

The Southern Cassowary requires dense tropical rainforest and associated habitat that provides a year-round supply of fleshy fruit and a suitable water supply, high-level foliage cover to provide shelter and protected places for nesting.

Southern Cassowaries forage largely on fallen rainforest fruit which is seasonal, therefore require a diverse habitat to provide them with a year round supply of food. But when food supply is reduced, they seek food elsewhere, and may move into open areas where they are more vulnerable.

They play a critical role in rainforest ecosystem dynamics and are one of only a few frugivores that disperse large rainforest fruits and are the only long distance dispersal mechanism for large seeded fruits. Dung is large and often contains thousands of seeds. The Southern Cassowary is a "keystone" species for rainforest, a species whose conservation has significant flow-on effects for a variety of species and ecosystems.

FAMILY LIFE

Southern Cassowaries first breed at around 3.5 years old and can live to 10 years, with anecdotal records that birds can live for over 29 years in the wild.

Southern Cassowaries are solitary nesters with a clutch-size of usually three or four eggs, sometimes five. A site is chosen by the first of a number of females, which may mate with the attendant male. The male incubates and raises the chicks, nesting on the ground in rainforests, usually near the base of a large tree or stump. Eggs are laid on the bare ground for about 50 days of incubation and the adult gathers twigs and vegetation around itself.

After hatching, the young birds remain with the father until about nine to 18 months of age and then disperse. Mating is timed so that chicks hatch into the period of high food abundance associated with the tropical wet season.

THREATS TO OUR SURVIVAL
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation
  • Vehicle traffic — road kills are a major cause of adult cassowary deaths
  • Dogs, which attack and kill chicks and juveniles

Southern Cassowarys love & need:

Ficus

The fig fruit is an enclosed in florescence, sometimes referred to as asyconium, an urn-like structure lined on the inside with the fig’s tiny flowers. The unique figpollinationsystem, involving tiny, highly specific wasps which pollinate and lay their eggs, has been a constant source of inspiration and wonder to biologists. READ MORE

Syzygium

The fruits from these trees vary from species to species in size, colour and shape. Most are crisp, pithy, fleshy, acidic and aromatic. Many are edible, if not delectable. READ MORE

Podocarpus

Podocarpusis a genus of conifers consisting of about 100 species and distributed in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Southern Hemisphere. Podocarpsare evergreen shrubs or trees generally from 1–25m tall, they have been known to reach 40 metres at times. There are approximately 104 to 107 species! READ MORE