Close Encounter of the Cassowary Kind


Breakfast at Cooper Creek Wilderness took a dramatic turn this morning with the unexpected arrival of a distressed cassowary chick. Not more than a month old, its separation from its family unit was cause for great concern. It ran about whistling for its father, but without response.

The image (above) shows the striped pattern providing a degree of concealment amongst the forest ground-cover. The second image shows the young cassowary, standing on our concrete verandah. After taking the shot, the chick then moved into the kitchen, which has no doors and then onwards to explore other aspects of our dwelling.

Perhaps ten minutes after its arrival, the dad made its presence known with another two chicks in tow. Re-united, the family walked quietly off into the wilderness, allowing our own kids to re-focus on readying themselves for the start of school’s third term.


8 Responses to Close Encounter of the Cassowary Kind

  1. Libby July 15, 2008 at 5:29 pm #

    That’s a great story Neil. I’m glad there was a happy ending to it. Do you have a local group that cares for orphaned and injured wildlife? Do they get many cassowary chicks?

  2. Neil Hewett July 15, 2008 at 10:00 pm #

    Hi Libby,

    Yes, we have dedicated wildlife rescue volunteers, waking themselves up throughout the night to feed orphaned mammals in particular.

    As a community, we have had some inspiring success stories, but these have been overshadowed by catastrophic disasters, like the highly protected feral pig population, whose administratively enhanced competitiveness ensures that virtually all cassowary chicks will not survive to adulthood.

  3. Libby July 16, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    Thanks Neil. Nothing like putting hard work into rescuing an animal and having it killed by something that shouldn’t be there. I gather there is no culling program for pigs given the location? Has there been a noticeable decline in cassowarys there?

  4. Neil Hewett July 16, 2008 at 12:23 pm #


    For every cassowary, there may be as many as 200 pigs. This reduces the cassowary carrying capacity of the landscape by around five times.

  5. spangled drongo July 16, 2008 at 5:53 pm #

    I know how you feel. I dont have a pig problem here [thank God, I’ve had one elsewhere in the past] but not short on dogs, cats and foxes. There is now a complete lack of will by the authorities to do anything about the problem and the locals have been told that we need about 8,000 letters of written agreement before we can bait privately. A logistical nightmare.
    I can only trap which is very time consuming and indiscriminate whereas 10-80 in meat is much more
    target specific.

  6. spangled drongo July 16, 2008 at 6:01 pm #

    If these real, fixable, environmental problems were addressed by govts instead of the will o’ the wisp AGW prolems they are spending billions on and creating more enviro problems, they could be cured for a fraction of the price.

  7. Libby July 16, 2008 at 7:53 pm #

    Hi Neil,

    Presumably these somewhat charmed pigs do a lot of damage to the vegetation and overall “value” of the area (not to mention chowing down on regular meals of stripey chick drumsticks). Are the pigs the main feral animal problem for the natives? I remember you mentioning dogs one time.

  8. Neil Hewett July 16, 2008 at 8:06 pm #

    Yes Libby, pigs beyond all others, with cane toads a distant second. Dogs are so easily managed that their continued mismanagement is of particular frustration, but underlying all of these concerns is the decadent hand of human ineptitude and inaction.

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