Are the cassowaries getting enough to eat?

To: "Andrew Thelander" <>, <>
Subject: Are the cassowaries getting enough to eat?
From: "Alan Gillanders" <>
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2011 20:11:15 +1000
I threw this to Graham Harrington (ex BA president, current BANQ committee member and semi retired scientist) to respond and here are his comments.

"Andrew Thelanders queries about the feeding of cassowaries at Mission beach are timely and valid but the problem is that no one has the data to provide answers. Realising that DERM are flying blind Birds Australia North Queensland (BANQ) has donated $10,000 towards MONITORING the effects of the feeding on the population, the identity of each bird using the feeding stations, how long the birds continue to use them and how far the birds move. This will be undertaken both where the birds are being fed and where they are not. Other data on the amount of food consumed will be collected. This will utilise both DNA fingerprinting and automatic cameras. BANQ need another $20,000 for this project and will welcome any donations however small.

"The response by DERM has been massive and prompt. It is a huge undertaking. It will also cost in excess of half a million dollars. Criticism is unwarranted. Of course not all the birds will be reached by the feeding program. There is likely to be competition between birds at the stations. It is probable that no young birds will survive the effects of the cyclone - this is normal when a population of animals is stressed. The weakest and young die first. Please give DERM the respect they deserve and do not peddle ridiculous rumours (I note that Andrew specifically avoided doing so).

"The cyclone is a natural phenomenon and under normal circumstances most birds would have probably starved to death although some would have moved out of the area. What is not natural is the fragmented forest habitat, which inhibits movement and the concentration of cassowaries near the settlement of Mission Beach because they are fed. The forested area in the hinterland of Mission Beach is somewhat isolated by farm land and this means the movement of birds in and out is inhibited (although not completely). "

From: "Andrew Thelander" <>
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2011 3:13 PM
To: <>
Subject: Are the cassowaries getting enough to eat?

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


To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG -
Version: 9.0.872 / Virus Database: 271.1.1/3505 - Release Date: 03/14/11 05:34:00


To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU