The southern cassowary is the world’s third largest bird. It is one
of Australia’s largest land animals and plays a unique role in the ecology of
the World Heritage listed rainforests of tropical Australia
Cassowaries are ratites, flightless birds closely related to the emu,
ostrich, kiwi and some extinct species. The Australian sub species is the
Southern Cassowary, found in three populations onAustralia’s of Far North
Queensland coast. The most vulnerable, is located on the wet tropical rainforest
coastal strip between the cities of Townsville and Cooktown.
Both the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act 1999 and the State of Queensland’s Nature Conservation
(Wildlife) Regulation 1994 list the Southern Cassowary as an endangered species.
Scientists believe only 1200 - 1500 cassowaries survive in the wild in
Australia, this is comparable with the number of Giant Pandas in
Vital to the
Cassowaries are a keystone species which means they are vital for seed
dispersal in the rainforest. Over 150 rainforest plants rely on them, especially
for dispersing the seeds of large-fruit species.
The ecology and extensive distribution of the cassowary makes it an effective
conservation "flagship" species whose conservation will have significant flow on
benefits for many other species and ecosystems.
- These guardians of the rainforest are still threatened by habitat loss, road
deaths and attacks by dogs.
- More than 80% of its prime habitat, coastal lowland rainforest, has been
cleared over the last 100 years.
- Nearly a quarter of the remaining cassowary habitat has poor conservation
- Links between the remaining patches of rainforest are essential if the
cassowary is to survive.