Monday, 4 May 2015

TOD Tour, Day 83 - The Cassowary

Sticking the boot in at Tully
After leaving Murray Falls, we arrived in Tully by mid morning and a photo shoot with the Big Gumboot. Soon after we left the Bruce Highway, turning east to Mission Beach. Sue visited the C4 Environment Centre and found it fascinating. After doing some shopping, we went to South Mission Beach and the Big4 caravan park there, who advertise that cassowaries walk through their park regularly. 

Sue has been a cassowary lunatic since a distant sighting in the Daintree five years ago and has investigated their habits and any interesting fact that is known about this shy, flightless bird, second only in size to the emu in Australia. After I set up the van - Sue being slowed down by a back spasm that happened last night - she set off with a camera to see if she could spot any. One step was all it took ... there was a male and a junior walking past our van! I'll let Sue take up the story.

Cassowaries have been sighted at last!!!!

The back story is that I have a fascination with cassowaries. Why?

They are big, colourful and on the extinction list. I caught a glimpse of one when we were last up here in the Daintree NP in 2010 and have been hooked ever since.

The males do the incubating of the 4 eggs and then raises the young until they are between 9-18 months. Most observations of the male say they are very good parents. The mother racks off and does zilch to help. The females mate, lay eggs and leave them and then eat all day until they want to mate again. That's it. (Good work if you can get it - editor)

The females will only mate with a male if he is without offspring. If she comes around and shows an interest he has to do the Hansel and Gretel trick and take them far into the forest and leaves them there. He then gets on with mating. His behaviour includes making his neck horizontal and displaying his casque (helmet).

Meanwhile the juveniles are at risk more than ever of being killed while they are young and unprotected. I don't much like the females. We saw a juvenile today so his protected days are numbered. Four year olds are considered adults.

Fast Facts:
  • The chicks are stripy but the juveniles are brown.
  • The casque is hard longitudinally but can be squeezed from the sides!! No one is certain yet of its purpose.
  • Stubs for wings.
  • Will leap and kick with both feet at once. It is advised to hide behind a tree. (We did when ours eyeballed us and walked directly toward us. It's a don't run situation. Pete was closer than me. Brown curduroys!)
  • Cassowaries grow to about 2 metres, the female is larger and they will live to 20 plus years in the forest. One in captivity lived to be 67 yrs old. both sexes look the same. Females are solitary.
  • The males have a territory of approx 7 km. The females roam 2-3 territories.
  • Mostly eat fruit but they will eat anything small.
  • They are on the extinction list and it's against the law to hurt or feed them.
  • They are usually killed by pack dogs or cars. 
In the Mission Beach area deaths are recorded. There are conservation areas around where they are large numbers and the numbers are increasing mostly in the Daintree NP.

The environment centre was closed but I heard voices so I said "Hi" and they let me in and I got to chat with an enthusiastic person that was there for a horticulture meeting but she was up on her cassowaries. She told me they had to remove the nearby large Tourist Information mascot as a female kept displaying and wanting to mate with it. As it showed no interest she would kick it. They were concerned she might hurt herself on the wood. I read a folder with newspaper clippings and sure enough it made the headlines.

For more info Google cassowary conservation, they have a face book page or a great website is Mission BeachCassowaries.

I'm still excited. They come out about 8 am and 4pm. Big sleep then out before 8 waiting for another sighting. 

Smiley face. 

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