Are the cassowaries getting enough to eat?

To: <>
Subject: Are the cassowaries getting enough to eat?
From: "Andrew Thelander" <>
Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2011 15:13:48 +1000
Hi all


I have just had a look at the Dept of Environment and Resource Management's
(DERM) website and it says: "By 9 March 2011, 93 feeding stations had been
established from the Cardwell Range north to Flying Fish Point and a total
of 3200 kg of fruit had been dropped by helicopter and placed at feeding
stations."  Of course, Cyclone Yasi hit on 2 and 3 February 2011, so these
statistics cover the first 5 weeks of DERM's response to the cyclone.


3200 kg doesn't sound very much to me, especially if it was partly dropped
by helicopter and the birds had to compete with pigs and other animals for
it. The Department's Cassowary Recovery Plan cites pigs as a likely food
competitor to cassowaries and I believe the feeding stations are designed to
be accessible by cassowaries but not pigs. The Plan also refers to Moore &
Moore's 2001 estimate of less than 1500 cassowaries left in the Wet Tropics
region. DERM's website says that male cassowaries can weigh up to 55 kg and
females up to 76 kg. They are big birds! Wildlife Australia's website
reports that they consume on average 2.9 kg of fruit per day in captivity.
In the wild, of course, they don't eat fruit exclusively but also fungi and


I am wondering how many birds are using the 93 feeding stations and how much
fruit is being placed in them daily.  If we are talking about 200 birds (I
am plucking this figure out of the air) and each got 2 kg, this amounts to
400 kg of fruit per day or 4.3 kg per feeding station per day. The 3200 kg
of fruit put out in the first 5 weeks - if it had all been put in 93 feeding
stations (which it wasn't)  beginning 7 days after Yasi (during which time
the birds had access to fallen fruit) - amounts to 1.2 kg per feeding
station per day.  This is why the DERM figure doesn't sound very much to me
and I would welcome correction and reassurance.


I am raising this question as disturbing stories are coming out of the
Mission Beach area of cassowaries in trouble, particularly young birds
seemingly rejected by their fathers and having to compete with adults at
feeding stations. One young bird with a damaged hip was recently taken into
captivity - it may well have been kicked by an adult. Today on Radio 4CA in
Cairns, questions were raised about the efficacy of DERM's response to the
Yasi cassowary crisis including some surprising claims which I will not
repeat here.


As I understand it, DERM plans to continue the feeding station program for
at least 12 months until the rainforest fruiting recovers. It may take
longer. This is no small task and requires good logistical organization e.g.
sourcing, collecting and transporting of fruit, cutting it up where required
and delivery to the 93 or more feeding stations. I only hope that DERM is
properly resourcing and directing its staff in a realistic manner so that
optimum results are achieved.


I encourage everyone to donate to one of the charities collecting money for
cassowary feeding. At this point in time, it seems that the Qld government's
report card will have to read "can do better."



Andrew Thelander


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