An innovative way to capture cassowaries on camera using hard plastic balls painted to look like tropical fruit.
An innovative way to capture cassowaries on camera using hard plastic balls painted to look like tropical fruit. Wren R. McLean

Smile! You're on cassowary camera

CASSOWARIES are very camera-shy but Southern Cross University student Wren R. McLean has developed a technique in capturing their images and identifying them.

Fake fruit and camera traps

The honours student's passion for the Daintree rainforest and its cassowaries led her  to develop an innovative technique to take photos of the large, shy flightless bird: placing fake fruit lures next to remote camera traps.

Ms McLean's idea helped her identify 45 individual cassowaries over a 32 kilometre stretch from the Daintree River to the Bloomfield River in Far North Queensland.

She will present her research at the 4th annual Research in Science, Engineering and Environment (RiSE) conference, hosted by the University's School of Environment, Science and Engineering, this week at the Lismore campus.

"My study is the first to systematically use camera traps for cassowaries and indeed the first use of visual lures with motion sensor camera traps for any species," said Wren, who is studying a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Honours).

Profiles created

More than 450 visual records were provided by these camera traps which allowed Wren to create profiles of individually identified cassowaries.

"I found 45 different individuals, that's of all age classes, including the very young chicks. Seeing this number of cassowaries through this area would otherwise be impossible," she said.

Hard plastic balls

Ms McLean created the fake fruit by painting hard plastic balls in the typical colours of rainforest fruit: red and blue.

She placed the fruit lures in front of 15 cameras, while the remaining 15 monitoring sites had cameras but no lures, a simplistic but effective experiment.

"The lures significantly increased the number of cassowaries detected and reduced the time until the first camera capture," she said.

"The birds were also twice as likely to stop in front of a camera with lures and in turn spent significantly longer in front of them. This increased the amount of profile shots for identification."



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