Saturday, September 26, 2015

How an apple averted human-cassowary conflict: World Cassowary Day

A Mermaid sits on a Cassowary and nurses its baby - an action not recommended if you're a Homo sapien.

Wherever you are on the planet today, through on an outfit in BLUE, RED and BLACK (the colours of the cassowary) and take a moment to celebrate World Cassowary Day.

The Southern Cassowary – a somewhat intimidating yet fascinating, flightless bird – is really in trouble in Far North Queensland, with the only dedicated rehabilitation centre struggling to remain afloat. 

Let's face it: these are not birds that anyone can simply nurse back to health in their lounge room. They can stand almost two metres tall and deliver a lethal kick (in certain circumstances). The thing is, mostly they do not. And they are magnificent creatures.

The Cassowary has suffered some negative PR thanks some encounters with the human species (read more about it in this post).

But they don’t all end badly. I’d like to share a brief passage describing an amazing encounter with a cassowary from my favourite scientific paper about cassowaries, “Case histories of attacks by the Southern Cassowary in Queensland” by Christopher Kofron. Even if you're not into scientific papers, this one about human-giant bird encounters is really gripping.
On 29 October 1995, three hikers on the Blue Arrow Track at Mount Whitfield encountered a cassowary preening itself. The hikers went off the trail, intending to circumvent the bird, but upon their emerging back onto the track the bird was waiting for them only 2m away.
[Ed. They’re not silly].
The cassowary lowered its head, charged and butted Clive Skarrott in the back. While falling he grabbed a narrow tree trunk, the momentum spinning him around the tree and back again to face the cassowary.
The man quickly retrieved an apple from his pocket and offered it to the cassowary, which the bird ate from hand. The man offered a second apple which was also eaten. A third apple was offered, but then rolled down the slope, which the cassowary pursued.
It started like a scene from Mission Impossible but the crisis was averted by a rolling apple. The same paper suggests that the practice of feeding cassowaries and leaving fruit around does attract the bird into human environments where misunderstandings can occur. They are often attacked by dogs or hit by cars.

We don’t need to be hand feeding them, but we do need to make sure that injured cassowaries are rehabilitated by experienced carers who can handle them safely.

More importantly but a bit less harder to achieve with the swipe of a credit card or the click of a button is to protect the environment they life in. 

Lend your support by liking World Cassowary Day on Facebook, or donating here

Kofron CP (2003) Case histories of attacks by the Southern cassowary in Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Musuem 49(1):339-342.