The Kuranda area of far north Queensland is a key zone for the endangered Cassowary, the birds around Cassowary House have raised 7 chicks since June 1998, with another male a couple of kilometres along the same road having a similar record and currently having 4 chicks. In January 2002 we had a new female appear, and occasionally join with the family group, though the regular female soon drives her away when they coincide here. The individual birds are readily recognisable by their casque shapes and patterns, with males having a drooping bustle and females being considerably larger and having a more pear shaped rear end.
Major threats here include uncontrolled dogs wandering in the state forest, feral pigs destroying the nests, and above all else road traffic. Our dirt road has a 40 km/h speed limit, which is often ignored, and requests for traffic calming bumps have met with disinterest from the Shire Council, an often unsympathetic one where the environment is concerned. One official from the Queensland State Forests Department actually told us that we couldnít have speed bumps because people drive too fast - go figure. I think itís all to do with the dreaded liability issue.
The Kuranda area is undoubtedly once of the best places to see the charismatic birds, easily as good as the well-known Mission Beach where the traffic issue is a similar problem. They had 4 birds killed on their roads in 2001, whilst we lost one late in 2000 to a road gravel lorry, with another hit and not accounted for. It is clearly time to raise the profile for this bird, which could easily be the flagship charismatic megafauna species for a major ecotourism and conservation initiative. Sadly, the Cassowary Conservation Liaison Officer appointed when the species was declared endangered in late 2000 was only a temporary appointment, funded for a few months to tie in with the new conservation status, but then abandoned.