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.