Reconnecting Cassowary Habitat header image

Reconnecting Cassowary Habitat

How business, community and conservation are saving a national treasure

Simon Mustoe

Simon Mustoe

Writer, photographer and founder of Wildiaries

New Zealand had the moa, an extinct flightless bird that stood 3.6m high. Madagascar’s elephant bird was similar. South America still has its rheas, Africa its ostriches but Australasia has its emus and cassowaries.

Being custodians of jungle megafauna is a privilege few countries have. Australia’s remaining cassowaries, with their thunderous calls and heavy feet, are a national treasure but threatened most of all by cars and domestic dogs. So much for the spear-like claw that’s supposed to be able to eviscerate predators.

Cassowary: danikancil iStock photo ID:492641872

In June 2020, the grandmother of Mission Beach cassowaries, Mrs C, was struck by a vehicle and killed. Mission Beach has the highest density of birds in Australia but with as few as 100 left, cassowaries cannot survive here much longer.

Vehicles and dogs are a symptom of increasing habitat fragmentation, where forests are cut in half by roads and new housing estates built. One way to improve this, is to reconnect forests, so birds can walk safely between patches. Hidden among the dense forest foliage is the cassowary’s natural safe place.

Gurrum Reserve Project

Gurrbum Reserve is a missing link in the cassowary corridor between Japoon National Park and Walter Hill Conservation Park. With the help of C4, Terrain, Brettacorp, Greenfleet and a grant from the Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Trust For Nature has is able to fund the site’s revegetation, connecting these two forests back together.

One of the unique features of this development is a vegetated land bridge across the highway, because this will give the Mission Beach birds, safe passage to recolonise even further to the west, into the Atherton Tablelands. Presently, the Bruce Highway prevents them from safely moving.

Projects like this, strategically located, not only have the potential to recreate vital habitat and capture carbon, they reconnect World Heritage habitat for birds like cassowaries. Without cassowaries, the forests won’t regenerate and the landscape won’t be as productive for future generations of Queenslanders.

This is one of many examples where business, conservationists and government can come together and make a big impression on livelihoods and Australia’s sustainability long into the future.

Read more about the project here

About the Author
Simon Mustoe

Simon Mustoe

Writer, photographer and founder of Wildiaries

Simon has been studying and observing wildlife for over 40 years and for about 30 of that, writing stories, taking photographs and making short films. His observations and experience extend to travelling extensively through Australia and eastern Indonesia discovering new and exciting travel opportunities, as well as contributing to science and conservation. Simon is passionate about conservation and the impact travel can have on the lives of people in remote places. 

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