Injured Cassowary


About two months ago, this magnificent adult female cassowary (above) traversed alongside our house with a dreadful limp. At the time, cassowaries had been fighting, so I assumed this one had suffered an injury in such conflict.

However, the big bird was not seen again for about two months and this was remarkable for this well-known inhabitant. She re-emerged late last week with no improvement in her gait, but with a dramatic loss of weight and this has presented an awkward dilemma for the land-manager.

It is pretty obvious that the bird is suffering. Then again, being a declared endangered species under EPBC, different protocols are invoked for response and intervention. She is a dominant female of a population of perhaps fewer than one-hundred birds remaining in the Daintree Cape Tribulation rainforests. She is also a wild animal with really scary feet.

Queensland’s EPA has the delegated authority for such matters. For the importance of the bird they are compelled to have the animal assessed by a veterinarian for diagnosis. If it is perceived that the animal is suffering from an infection, strategically placed fruit with antibiotics could be deployed. If the trauma was identified as a dislocation, the animal might be tranquilized or netted for manipulation. On the other hand, if the injury required resetting and immobilization for weeks, say for a broken bone, then the bird would be euthanased.

Trouble is, a vet with cassowary expertise cannot really expect to travel from Cairns or Ingham or wherever, to the Cooper Valley in the Daintree and the expectant arrival of a wild cassowary.

In a stroke of good fortune, a departing client rang through to the office from our entrance courtesy phone, that the injured cassowary was halfway along our driveway. I drove down and managed to get about ten minutes of video of the brid, limping and feeding and hopefully this will allow the vet to make the necessary determination.

15 Responses to Injured Cassowary

  1. mel August 4, 2008 at 1:59 pm #

    Good on you Neil. If fewer than 100 cassowaries remain in the Daintree Cape Tribulation rainforests the population will become inbred and eventually extinct I guess. What do you think needs to be done to ensure this doesn’t happen?

  2. Neil Hewett August 4, 2008 at 2:34 pm #


    The most affirmative action Australia could take to restore the cassowary population to greater numbers, would be by ceasing to provide protection to the 10,000-strong feral pig population within the area. At current population levels, each cassowary shares habitat with 100 feral pigs, requiring five times the territory per bird.

  3. mel August 4, 2008 at 2:46 pm #

    Thanks Neil.

    How are the pigs being protected?

  4. Ann August 4, 2008 at 3:13 pm #

    Hi Neil,
    If the bird is in the same condition as on the pic ( standing on its feet) , ´then there should not be any bones broken. Alternatives are

    1) Dislocation ( needs rest , which is impossible since the bird search for food)

    2) Inflammation in a joint etc( Cortisone)

    3) Infection ( Antibiotics)

    It’s quite common with one leg birds , and surprisingly they use to manage fine. What’s bad , is that you have seen that the bird has lost weight.

    Good work , and good luck to you and the bird!

  5. Libby August 4, 2008 at 3:26 pm #

    Hi Neil,

    Cairns Tropical Zoo have captive cassowarys as does Australia Zoo. Perhaps you could send the video to the onsite vets there? The fact the bird has lost weight is not good, but hopefully someone can assess and treat the bird very soon. Please keep us updated.

  6. Neil Hewett August 4, 2008 at 5:16 pm #


    Pigs thrive under the blanket of legislative protection that define the jurisdiction of the declared state reserves, which are simultaneously exempted from the provisions of the Rural Lands (Pest & Stock Route) Management Act 2002.


    The bird is not in the same condition as the photo, it keeps weight off its right foot as much as possible. When it has to step onto the right foot, the normally convex extension of the ‘drumstick’ is rather noticeably inverted.


    Hopefully EPA has sent on the video to the best vets. I would have liked to link a copy of the video to the entry, but I do not have the knowhow.

  7. James Mayeau August 4, 2008 at 9:03 pm #

    That’s the strangest thing. Protecting pigs?
    Pigs don’t need protection. They are one of the smartest creatures. Even if the Gov lifted protections and a flood of hunters invaded the Daintree, that wouldn’t make an appreciable dent in pig populations. It’s would be like hunting cane toads.

    Neil you might be able to post your video on youtube – but I’ve never done that myself. Any of you readers ever use youtube?
    Help Neil out. Talk him through it.

  8. spangled drongo August 4, 2008 at 9:52 pm #

    That lack of action against pigs is just so typical of our state govt.
    When I was young [here we go again…] and had a full head of steam [and I don’t mean whisky] I found pigs easy to kill but you had to run for miles through the scrub, gathering mobs as you went, carrying a light semi-automatic and when they started squealing they were exhausted and you could shoot them at close range very effectively.
    Not exactly Michael Fomenko but satisfying.

  9. Ivan (843 days & Counting) August 4, 2008 at 10:41 pm #

    “When I was young [here we go again…]”

  10. Chris Crawford August 5, 2008 at 4:37 am #


    …just continuing my tradition of contrarian commentary…

  11. spangled drongo August 5, 2008 at 4:53 pm #

    Yeah, Ivan,
    Poor old J McC’s got an uphill battle but let’s hope sanity [and J McC] prevails.
    Bet Neil wonders how the hell J McC got into this cassowary repair blog.

  12. Libby August 5, 2008 at 6:44 pm #

    Hi again Neil,

    If you don’t get an adequate response from EPA and can somehow send me the video, I can get a number of vets here in Sydney who deal with cassowaries to have a look at it. Not hugely helpful, but perhaps better than nothing.

  13. gavin August 6, 2008 at 8:10 am #

    CC: I am very surprised by your comment “Nuke………!

    As you well know, if we repeat something often enough on here, others are expected to believe it then act on it accordingly.

  14. Graham Lauridsen November 17, 2008 at 7:59 am #


    I am a vet from Tully North Queensland who deals with injured cassowaries often. I do most of the work for the QPWS cassowary response team. Havent heard anything about this bird as yet but this sort of injury is not uncommon. I have seen quite a number of lame cassowaries similar to the way you describe this one. I aggree it probably needs assessment as a first step before deciding what sort of action needs to be taken,


  15. Anonymous Coward March 21, 2009 at 4:54 pm #

    I hope you don’t mind your picture being used:

Website by 46digital