Cyclone threat to cassowary

IF CASSOWARIES could talk, there's a good chance they would be asking for your help right now.

While recovery efforts in the wake of last week's Cyclone Yasi have rightly been focused on helping Queenslanders pick up the pieces, a Northern Rivers conservation group is trying to help the creatures that can't help themselves.

Mullumbimby-based Rainforest Rescue is seeking community funding for a plan to help the already threatened cassowary population.

Rainforest Rescue chief executive Kelvin Davies said immense damage had been done by Yasi to cassowary habitat.

“Yasi stripped the rainforest bare,” he said. “Once the cassowaries have eaten the fallen rainforest fruit, they will be forced to leave the forest in search of food.

“This could be disastrous for an already dwindling population.”

Mr Davies said the past few years had been tough for the estimated 1000 cassowaries that remained in the wild.

He said the birds, which were found exclusively in Far North Queensland, had not long recovered from the devastation of Cyclone Larry in March 2006.

“One-third of the cassowary population in the Mission Beach area died of starvation after Larry,” he said

To try and limit any further cassowary deaths, Rainforest Rescue will work with Queensland National Parks officers to install feeding platforms to provide the cassowaries with food so they won't have to leave the rainforest.

Mr Davies said the cassowary needed help as it played an important role in the wider rainforest ecosystem.

“Cassowaries are the only animals big enough to eat many of the larger rainforest fruits, which have seeds poisonous to other rainforest animals,” he said.

“By dispersing these seeds the cassowaries help new trees to grow.

“This means the rainforest needs the cassowary for survival as much as the cassowary needs the rainforest.”

Donations to Rainforest Rescue's cassowary appeal can made at www.rainforestrescue.org.au or by phoning 1300 763 611.



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