Help save cassowaries

The Lismore-based Rainforest Information Centre’s good work to save the endangered southern cassowary is in danger of being thwarted by Cyclone Yasi, which has devastated cassowary food supplies at Mission Beach.

The Rainforest Information Centre has been campaigning for some time to conserve cassowary habitat in Far North Queensland, however, the threat of starvation is now posing an immediate danger.

Local group Rainforest Rescue has stepped in to lend a hand and has launched a ‘Cyclone Yasi Cassowary Appeal’ to raise money so the birds don’t die in the wake of the disaster.

“The rainforest at Mission Beach was hit hard by the cyclone and has stripped all of the leaves and rainforest fruits from the trees,” Kelvin Davies from Rainforest Rescue said. “The tree are all bare, so there is some food on the ground that the cassowaries can eat, probably for about a week, but after they that they could be without food for around 18 months while the rainforest regrows.”

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is now establishing a feeding program with the help of local volunteers. Kelvin said they would set up feeding stations in the rainforests where the birds will be able to come to eat fruit provided.

Kelvin said it was vital to have feeding stations within the rainforest so the cassowaries didn’t become used to humans providing a food source, which happened after Cyclone Larry in 2006.

“It’s very dangerous for cassowaries to become accustomed to seeing humans as a source of food because they will begin to venture out of the rainforest and then run the risk of being run over by cars and trucks or attacked by dogs,” he said. “We need to keep them in the rainforest and away from threats like that. In 2006, one-third of the Mission Beach cassowaries died of starvation in the aftermath of Cyclone Larry. A large number were killed by vehicles or attacked by dogs as they came out of the bare forest to search for food.

“The cassowary is an endangered species, and we’re not sure how many are left exactly, but it’s thought there are less than 1000 of the these big, magnificent birds left in Australia.”

Ruth Rosenhek from the Rainforest Information Centre explained that the cassowary plays an important part in helping to keep the tropical rainforests diverse and flourishing.

“The cassowary, third largest bird in the world, is a keystone species, crucial for the preservation of rainforest diversity,” Ruth told The Echo. “If they go, so too will many of the rainforest trees that depend on them for their survival. The ancient wet tropics in far north Queensland rely on these flightless birds to disperse and germinate seeds of at least 80 rainforest trees and another 70 plants.”

The money raised by Rainforest Rescue will be used to buy fruit for the cassowaries.

To make a donation to the Cyclone Yasi Cassowary Appeal or to find out more, visit www.rainforestrescue.org.au or phone 6684 4360.



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