In Focus – Cassowary

Status:Endangered

Geographic Region:  North-Eastern Australia, New Guinea and Aru Islands

Meaning of name: Papua New Guinea word kasu- meaning horned; and weri- meaning head

Habitat: Deep rainforest

Threats: Dogs, cars, habitat loss and wild pigs.

Left in Wild: 2500 to 3000

Cassowary at Australia Zoo

 

The Cassowary is the largest native land animal in Northern Australia, and the heaviest bird in Australia, weighing in at 85 kilograms- being generally 40 kilograms heavier than the Emu. There are three sub species of cassowary in the world, The Southern, Northern and Dwarf Cassowary. All three sub species are extremely shy and very hard to spot in the forest.

 

Cassowaries can live up to 40 years in the wild and have been known to live to over 60 years in captivity. The cassowary has many threats to its precarious existence with car accidents making up a large portion of their fatalities. Other threats include wild pigs eating their eggs, wild dogs hunting them for food and recent weather events that have devastated their habitats.

The most distinguishing feature of the cassowary is the bony looking horn upon its head. The horn or casque is actually quite porous, made of a spongy material covered with skin and will continue to grow for the cassowary’s entire life. Not that you would want to get close enough to feel its horn as they are very dangerous and have been known to seriously injure, and in rare occasions even kill people with their very large claws.

Cassowary Feet – deadly weapons

Cassowaries are good swimmers and have been seen swimming in the ocean to escape dingos and wild dogs. They also swim across Northern Queensland’s Daintree River to get from one side to the other. They do not have tongues and so drink by scooping up water with their bottom beak.  

Stu’s Zoo Pick for the Cassowary

Most Australian zoos and wild life sanctuaries have cassowaries and participate in breeding programs. Perth Zoo located in Western Australia has a great rainforest walk-through exhibit that showcases both the cassowary and its habitat. 

Australia Zoo

Other good opportunities to view cassowaries in natural-looking environs include the enclosures at Australia Zoo, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Dreamworld all located in South East Queensland in Australia. 

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

 

 ©Stuatthezoocom

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