Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered as Casuarius casuarius johnsonii
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan] as Casuarius casuarius johnsonii.
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Predation, Habitat Degradation, Competition and Disease Transmission by Feral Pigs (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2005p) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Threat Abatement Plan for Reduction in Impacts of Tramp Ants on Biodiversity in Australia and its Territories (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006p) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Significant Impact Guidelines for the endangered southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) Wet Tropics Population. EPBC Act policy statement 3.15 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009v) [Admin Guideline].
 
Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
 
Information Sheets Southern cassowary, Casuarius casuarius johnsonii Threatened Species Day fact sheet (Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW), 2007e) [Information Sheet].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Casuarius casuarius johnsonii.
 
State Listing Status
QLD: Listed as Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list) as Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (northern population)
QLD: Listed as Endangered (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list) as Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (southern population)
Non-statutory Listing Status
NGO: Listed as Vulnerable (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Casuarius casuarius johnsonii [25986]
Family Casuariidae:Struthioniformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author P.L.S. Mueller, 1866
Reference  
Other names Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (southern population) [66775]
Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (northern population) [66776]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Casuarius casuarius johnsonii.

Common name: Southern Cassowary

Other Names: Southern Cassowary (Australian), Australian or Double-wattled Cassowary (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The Southen Cassowary is considered to be conventionally accepted. However, the validity of each of the eight subspecies (including C. c. johnsonii) is not well established internationally. Each of the subspecies has been described based on minor variations in wattle morphology and colour (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

While no genetic data has been collected to confirm this, the Wet Tropic and Cape York populations may be genetically distinct (Latch 2007).

The Southern Cassowary is a large flightless bird and is the largest native vertebrate in Australian rainforests. Adults can stand up to 2 m tall, with males weighing up to 55 kg and females up to 76 kg (Westcott & Reid 2002). Adults have draping, shiny black plumage with naked blue skin on the neck and head and long red wattles. A tall bony helmet, or casque, forms on the heads of maturing birds and continues to grow with age. Their legs are heavy, and terminate with three toes, the inside of which bears a large dagger-shaped claw. Newly hatched chicks are striped dark brown and creamy white. After three to six months their stripes fade and the plumage changes to brown. As the young mature the plumage darkens, the wattles and casque develop and the skin colour on the neck and wattles brightens (Latch 2007).

The Southern Cassowary is territorial and solitary, with contact between mature individuals generally only tolerated during mating (Latch 2007). Females appear to be dominant in social interactions (Crome & Bentrupperbäumer 1991). Adults are the most abundant age class in all studied populations of the Southern Cassowary, followed by independent sub-adults and chicks. This reflects the longevity of birds and the low recruitment rate amongst Southern Cassowary populations (Buosi & Burnett 2006). There appear to be similar numbers of adult males and females in each of the areas where this information has been collected (Bentrupperbäumer 1998; Buosi & Burnett 2006).

The Southern Cassowary occurs in Cape York and the Wet Tropics:

Cape York
In Cape York, the Southern Cassowary occurs in two areas:

  • The northern Cape York Peninsula, centred on Shelburne Bay. It was previously known from areas near the mouth of the Jardine River, east to the Lockerbie Scrub, and south through the Escape River area to Heathlands and Captain Billy Landing.
  • The eastern Cape York Peninusula, in the Iron Range/McIlwraith Range area from about Temple Bay in the north as far south as the Massey River and possibly into Princess Charlotte Bay.

Wet Tropics
In the Wet Tropics, the Southern Cassowary occurs between Cooktown and Townsville, being distributed throughout the coastal, hinterland and tableland areas south to the Bluewater Range (north of Townsville). Although widely distributed in this area, it occurs patchily at both the local and regional scale.

The distribution of the species is constrained by the availability of habitat which can provide a year-round supply of fleshy fruits and access to permanent freshwater for drinking and bathing (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Areas of note within the Wet Tropics
While all remaining habitat used by Southern Cassowaries is considered important (Buosi & Burnett 2006), Crome and Moore (1993) defined a number of important cassowary population nodes within the Wet Tropics which were either known or believed to host high density cassowary populations. These included:

  • Thomas Point
  • Cedar Bay
  • Lower Noah Creek
  • Cow Bay and central foothills (Daintree coastal and lowlands area)
  • Black Mountain Road (Macalister and Atherton Tablelands area)
  • Lake Morris and East Atherton Tableland
  • Woolanmaroo and Malbon Thomson Range
  • Graham Range and Woopen Creek
  • Moresby Range and Cowley Beach
  • Mission Beach
  • Edmund Kennedy National Park
  • Wallaman Falls.

The Black Mountain corridor (Macallister Range), the Lamb Range to Davies Creek and the slopes on the north and east shores of Lake Tinaroo also appear to be important for Southern Cassowary populations. Six priority regional Southern Cassowary Management Areas are identifed as having extreme current/potential threats to their populations, including the Daintree lowlands, Kuranda and Black Mountain Road, sections of the Cairns foothills, Innisfail, Mission Beach and Paluma/Mt Spec (Latch 2007).

The relative importance of some of these areas is not clear as comprehensive comparisons of densities across the entire distribution have not been undertaken and there are acknowledged limitations in evaluating abundance and density in the subspecies (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Extent of occurrence
The extent of occurrence of the Southern Cassowary (Australian) is estimated, with medium reliability, to be 11 000 km² (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The extent of ocurrence may have declined on the Cape York Peninsula, as there have been no recent records of the subspecies north of Bamaga (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990; QPWS 2002).

Area of occupancy
The area of occupancy is estimated, with low reliability, to be 1000 km² (Garnett & Crowley 2000). Like the extent of occurrence, the area of occupancy is thought to have declined.

Fragmentation
The distribution of the Southern Cassowary is considered to be severely fragmented. Forest clearence has greatly reduced their habitat and caused fragmentation (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Latch 2007; Marchant & Higgins 1990). This has led to the local extinctions of Southern Cassowaries in some areas, and threatens populations in a number of other areas.

The Southern Cassowary is endemic to Australia. All other subspecies of the cassowary occur in Papua New Guinea and eastern Indonesia (Pizzey & Knight 1999).

Although Southern Cassowaries are naturally wary, their size and distinctive appearance render them highly visible. They leave conspicuous signs (scats, footprints) of their presence, which have enabled a good understanding of this subspecies distribution. However, methods for estimating abundance of birds are limited (Buosi & Burnett 2006), and population estimates and population density figures are extremely difficult to determine.

While the general distribution throughout the Wet Tropics area is relatively well known, only a few areas, such as Mission Beach and Daintree lowlands, have been well studied and surveyed (examples in Buosi & Burnett 2006; Latch 2007). Other areas have had less comprehensive surveys, such as those associated with management studies (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Population estimates
There is no effective method for Southern Cassowary population estimates, and most estimates have a degree of uncertainty (Buosi & Burnett 2006). Garnett and Crowley (2000) estimated that in 2000 the total population of Southern Cassowary was around 2000 breeding birds, but stated that the reliability of this esimate was low.

In the Cape York Peninsula region the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (2003) observed a lower density of "signs" (e.g. scats and tracks) on transects (< 1 sign/km in 75 km of search transects) than at the better studied Mission Beach area (13 signs/km: Moore & Moore 2001). This suggests that birds may occur at much lower abundance throughout Cape York than they do at Mission Beach.

Population trends
The population size of the Southern Cassowary is thought to be decreasing (Garnett & Crowley 2000). In 1988 it was estimated that 2500–4000 adults occurred in the Wet Tropics region (Crome & Moore 1988). In 2001, however, less than 1500 adults were estimated to remain (Moore & Moore 2001, cited in Latch 2007). While some proportion of this decline is attributable to ongoing losses of Southern Cassowary habitat to clearing and fragmentation, at least part of this decline could be attributed to improved understanding of Southern Cassowary distribution, habitat preferences and population density (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Likewise, population size has probably decreased in the Cape York region. The remaining areas of Southern Cassowary habitat are secure, as there are no current significant ongoing threats (Buosi & Burnett 2006). The presumed extinction of the species in the far north of the Cape may have been caused by a combination of factors not present elsewhere on Cape York Peninsula. These isolated threats may have included intense local hunting combined with the very open understorey of the region's Lockerbie Scrub, which permits good visibility to hunters (QWPS 2003). In contrast to the Lockerbie Scrub area, other areas of the Cape occupied by the Southern Cassowary generally support a much thicker vegetation type (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Subpopulations
Garnett & Crowley (2000) estimated that there were 14 subpopulations of the Southern Cassowary in Australia. Ten of these subpopulations occur in the Wet Tropics in areas that have become isolated by clearing. Other subpopulations, like that in the Dagmar Range, are connected to larger rainforest blocks by narrow corridors.

The most comprehensive discussion on populations and subpopulations of the Southern Cassowary in the Wet Tropics has been undertaken in a report by Buosi & Burnett (2006). They divide the Southern Cassowary into nine 'populations' and 21 'regional populations' or 'subpopulations', which are partially or totally separated from each other based on consideration of bioregions and geographic barriers. These authors discuss their analysis and map the 'populations' and 'regional populations'. 'Populations' are described as having an extremely limited interchange of individuals, while the 'regional populations' or 'subpopulations' would be expected to have higher exchange rates.

The following table presents populations and subpopulations identified by Buosi and Burnett (2006):

Population Subpopulation
Cape York  
Cape York Peninsula (northern) No subpopulations
Cape York Peninsula (southern) No subpopulations
Wet Tropics  
Daintree Daintree Uplands
  Daintree Coastal/Lowlands
Atherton Macalister
  Atherton Tableland
  Cardwell Range
Innisfail-Tully Macalister to Barron River
  Barron River to Mulgrave River (coastal)
  Barron River to Mulgrave River (footslopes)
  Mulgrave River to Johnstone River (coastal)
  Mulgrave River to Johnstone River (footslopes)
  Johnstone River to Liverpool Creek (coastal)
  Johnstone River to Liverpool Creek (footslopes)
  Liverpool Creek to Tully River (coastal)
  Liverpool Creek to Tully River (footslopes)
  Tully River to Herbert River (coastal)
  Tully River to Herbert River (footslopes)
Hinchinbrook No subpopulations
Seaview No subpopulations
Paluma Mount Spec
  Halifax
Herbert No subpopulations

Subpopulation size estimates
Comprehensive subpopulation estimates have been made for only two areas: Mission Beach and the Daintree lowlands. In the Mission Beach area, Moore and Moore (2001, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) estimated that there were approximately 49 adult Southern Cassowary, 28 sub-adults and 31 chicks in the coastal and hinterland areas during a six month survey. This represents a density of about one adult Southern Cassowary per 208 hectares. In the Daintree lowlands, Crome and Moore (1993, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006), and later NRA (1996, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006; 1997a, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006), estimated about 54 adults were present, at an average density of about 1 adult Southern Cassowary per 300 hectares. Estimated population sizes and densities of birds, based on less comprehensive surveys, have been made in a number of other locations and are given in Buosi and Burnett (2006).

The following table presents documented population size and density estimates of Southern Cassowary (Wet Tropics Population) (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Site Region Number of adult cassowaries Study area Approximate density of adult Southern Cassowary Source
Mission Beach area Liverpool Creek-Tully coastal 49 10 166 ha 1/208 ha Moore and Moore (2001, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006)
Mission Beach coastal and hinterland area Liverpool Creek-Tully coastal 54 23 000 ha 1/426 ha Bentrupperbäumer (1992a, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006)
Kennedy Bay Liverpool Creek-Tully coastal 12 319 ha 1/27 ha1 Bentrupperbäumer (1998)
Daintree lowlands Daintree lowlands 54 16 000 ha 1/300 ha but as high as 1/50–75 ha in high quality areas such as mouth of Noah Creek. Crome and Moore (1993)
Kuranda management area Macalister and extreme northern Atherton Tablelands 8 8700 ha 1/1000 ha Moore and Moore (1999b, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006)
Moresby Range Johnstone River-Liverpool Creek coastal 12 about 2500 ha 1/208 ha Moore and Moore (1999c, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006)
Mt Spec and Paluma Spec 2 (1999 value)
6 (historical value)
8700 ha
8700 ha
1/4350 ha
1/1450 ha
Moore and Moore (1999e, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006)
Boonjie Atherton Tablelands 17 3500 ha 1/205 ha2 Westcott (1999)
Mt Whitfield Barron-Mulgrave coastal 4–6 700 ha 1/116–1/175 ha Moore and Moore (1999f, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006)
Cowley Beach training area Johnstone River-Liverpool Creek coastal 16 about 5260 ha about 1/330 ha ACTFR (1998a, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006)
Tully training area Liverpool Creek-Tully River footslopes 16 about 7550 ha about 1/470 ha3 ACTFR (1998b, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006)

1= This population estimate has is an overestimate of true cassowary density and also counted animals that only partially use the site (Moore & Moore 2001, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006).
2= This population estimate is approximate, as the author does not stipulate the age of birds included in his count, nor is the survey area well defined.
3= This is a very approximate estimate as it is unclear which area the counted cassowaries roam over.

Trends in smaller populations
The 2001–2005 Southern Cassowary recovery plan (QPWS 2002) identified eight areas where the Southern Cassowary is subject to significant threat. These are: the Daintree/Mossman lowlands; Kuranda/Black Mountain corridor; Cairns hill slopes; Mulgrave Valley/Malbon-Thompson Range; southern Atherton Tablelands; Graham/Palmerston/Moresby Range; Mission Beach; and Kennedy Valley/Murray River floodplain.

Another study in the Wet Tropics identified six priority regional Southern Cassowary management areas as having extreme current/potential threats to their cassowary populations. They are the Daintree lowlands, Kuranda and Black Mountain Road, sections of the Cairns foothills, Innisfail, Mission Beach and Paluma/Mt Spec (Latch 2007).

The birds in the Kennedy Bay National Park, Rockingham Bay, near Cardwell, appear to be particularly important to the Mission Beach subpopulation, as they have high survivorship and birds may move into the Mission Beach area where the mortality rate is higher (Bentrupperbäumer 1998).

Over 800 000 ha of important Southern Cassowary habitat ("Essential Habitat") has been mapped in the Wet Tropics, of which 84% is protected within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA), and a further 5% is within protected tenures of some other type. Around 11% exists outside these areas, primarily on freehold land (Latch 2007).

The Southern Cassowary generally requires dense tropical rainforest (such as complex/non-complex notophyll/mesophyll vine forest) and associated habitat (such as mangrove Melaleuca, eucalypt woodland, swamp and swamp forest), that provides a year-round supply of fleshy fruit. This species is commun in flat areas of lowland rainforest, but can at all altitudes (Bentrupperbäumer 1998; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990). Other habitat where cassowaries have been observed include savanna, mangrove, fruit plantation, cane fields and open woodland, especially in areas between patches of rainforest. Southern Cassowaries are often seen by roadsides, particularly in the early morning and late afternoon (Bentrupperbäumer 1998; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Besides sources of food, the subspecies requires habitat with (Bentrupperbäumer 1998):

  • a suitable water supply (for daily drinking and bathing)
  • high-level foliage cover to provide shelter
  • protected places for nesting.

The Southern Cassowary is widely recognised as a major contributor to the values of the WTWHA as it plays a key role in dispersing a range of large-fruited rainforest plants and is considered essential to the ecological functioning of Australian lowland forests (Buosi & Burnett 2006). The WTWHA and its values are protected under the Heritage provisions of the EPBC Act 1999.

Habitat mosaics
Southern Cassowaries appear to be most abundant in areas of relatively flat terrain with permanent fresh water, which support a vegetation complex of rainforest, shrubby woodland and swamps (Bentrupperbäumer 1998; Crome & Moore 1990). Within a bird's home range, different habitats are used at different times of year depending on food availability (Bentrupperbäumer 1998). It has also been suggested that non-rainforest habitats and food resources may be more important at times of food stress in the rainforest, such as after cyclones (Crome & Moore 1990).

In a study of the Daintree region, a coastal vegetation complex of beach vegetation, swamp, rainforest and woodland supported the highest density Southern Cassowary populations (1 individual/50 ha); the next highest density (1 individual/75 ha) occurred in swamp/rainforest mosaic habitats (Crome & Moore 1993, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006). At Cowley Beach, a modelling study (Hopkins & Graham n.d., cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) of the habitat mosaic shows that rainforest produces the most fruit per unit area of any of the vegetation in the mosaic. However, they also showed that in a given month, sclerophyll forests and woodlands can produce 40–60% of all fruit within the habitat mosaic.

Altitude and slope
Southern Cassowaries were most abundant in the Mission Beach area in the lowlands (< 20 m asl). The Mission Beach coastal strip (areas below 40 m asl and east of the Double Mountain-Mount Douglas forest block) supported 56 adult birds (or 35% of the adult birds in the Mission Beach area). This lowland coastal area carries only 14.5% of all remaining vegetation in the Mission Beach area (Bentraupperbaumer 1998; Crome & Bentraupperbaumer 1991, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Crome and Moore (1993, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) also noted that in the Daintree region there was a decrease in Southern Cassowary abundance on steeper terrain and in forests growing on a stony substrate.

Breeding habitat
All nests have been recorded in rainforest or woodland mosaics with rainforest elements. Southern Cassowaries nest on the ground, usually near the base of a large tree or stump. Eggs are laid on the bare ground and the adult gathers twigs and vegetation around itself during incubation (Bentrupperbäumer 1998; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990). A number of nests observed by Bentrupperbäumer (1998) occurred in a variety of locations within primary and regrowth rainforest or woodland and on flat coastal areas and hillslopes. The one feature common to all nests was the presence of a closed understorey of vines, regrowth or dense grass thickets. Nest sites did not appear to be used more than once.

Roosting habitat
Southern Cassowaries roost on the ground in forest areas (Bentrupperbäumer 1998; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Queensland habitat mapping
In the Wet Tropics, the Queensland Environment Protection Agency (QLD EPA) has evaluated Southern Cassowary habitat over its range and categorised and prioritised habitat according to its importance for survival of the species. The approach is based on the Queensland remnant vegetation system of Regional Ecosystems and the outcomes have been mapped (Latch 2007). The key categories used are: essential habitat, general habitat, rehabilitation habitat, cleared habitat and areas where the vegetation type has not been confirmed (Kutt et al. 2004).

Essential habitat is based on verified sightings of the Southern Cassowary since 1980 and includes vegetation considered to be important for the species in terms of foraging, breeding or other parts of the species' life cycle. This habitat is considered to be necessary for the long-term survival of the cassowary. The important vegetation types associated with essential habitat (91 Regional Ecosystems) are listed within Kutt and colleagues (2004).

Not all essential habitat has been subject to field verification and some areas may require further survey to confirm the presence of an important vegetation type for the Southern Cassowary (Kutt et al. 2004).

General habitat encompasses those areas where there have been accurate and verified Southern Cassowary records (since 1980) but where no important remnant vegetation occurs. Southern Cassowaries may use such habitat to move between areas (Kutt et al. 2004).

Rehabilitation habitat includes those areas of non-remnant vegetation (including regrowth, heavily thinned or logged vegetation and significantly disturbed vegetation) which provide shelter and supplementary feeding and/or breeding resources for the Southern Cassowary. In the highly fragmented wet tropical lowlands, non-remnant vegetation retains significant Southern Cassowary habitat and resource values. It is particularly important where it abuts essential habitat or where it provides cover and links between areas of essential habitat. Rehabilitating habitat may be used as refuge habitat at times of environmental extremes such as food stress in rainforests after cyclones or at times of low food elsewhere (at such times birds may temporarily move beyond their home ranges) (Kutt et al. 2004).

Cleared habitat are areas clear of vegetation which are not considered to be Southern Cassowary habitat but may be used as linking habitat between areas of essential habitat (Kutt et al. 2004).

Other threatened species associated with the Southern Cassowary
The Southern Cassowary is an intrinsic part of the rainforests in north-eastern Australia. It can be considered a "keystone" species for rainforest in this area; that is, a species whose conservation will have significant flow-on effects for a variety of species and ecosystems (Latch 2007).

Southern Cassowary essential habitat is also habitat for more than 106 plant species and 37 animal species identified as threatened or rare under both State legislation and the EPBC Act (Latch 2007).

Population biology
Southern Cassowaries first breed at around 3.5 years old, though males possibly breed earlier (2.5 years) while still in brown juvenile plumage (Marchant & Higgins 1990). However, in a study at Mission Beach, birds were considered to reach sexual maturity at about four years old (Bentrupperbäumer 1998, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006). The generation length of the Southern Cassowary is estimated, with low reliability, to be 10 years (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

While there is no comprehensive data on the longevity of Southern Cassowaries in the wild, they are known to be long-lived, with anecdotal records that birds can live for over 29 years in the wild (Moore 2003, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) and captive birds for 18–50 years (Crome & Moore 1988, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006; Marchant & Higgins 1990; Richardson 1991).

There is little data on natural adult mortality rates. Bentrupperbäumer's (n.d., cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) indicated that, under natural conditions, in which human impacts were non-existent or minimal, annual adult mortality was very low. Mortality rates amongst dispersing sub-adults are unknown but presumed to be high as this age class is the most likely to be harassed by territorial adults into areas of suboptimal and/or more dangerous environments. Causes of mortality include floods, hunting, roadkill, Domestic Dog (Canis lupus familiaris) attack and disease (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Southern Cassowaries are assumed to breed throughout their range, with breeding recorded to the southern limit of its range (Buosi & Burnett 2006; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990; QPWS 2002).

Breeding system
Southern Cassowaries are solitary nesters. The male incubates and raises the chicks. The clutch-size is usually three or four eggs, or sometimes five (Bentrupperbäumer 1998). Average clutch size varies with season and location, but average clutches of 1.8–2.8 have been recorded (Buosi & Burnett 2006). Eggs hatch after about 50 days of incubation (Bentrupperbäumer 1998).

Eggs are laid on the ground at a site chosen by the first of a number of females which may mate with the attendant male. No nest is constructed, although the broody male pulls leaf-litter in around himself while on the eggs, to create a low ring of material which remains briefly after he has vacated the nest (Bentrupperbäumer 1998, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006).

After hatching, subadult birds remain with the father until about nine to 18 months of age and then disperse (Bentrupperbäumer 1998, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006).

In the three year study at Kennedy Bay, breeding males did not brood clutches of eggs every year (Bentrupperbäumer 1998, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006). Three other separate observations of different males suggest that males may breed every year in the Tully-Innisfail lowlands (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Breeding season
The breeding season occurs mainly during winter and spring (Buosi & Burnett 2006) or from early June to October (Marchant & Higgins 1990), but there are reports of breeding occurring at other times; studies by Burnett and colleagues (1998a) documented evidence of summer breeding in the Cowley Beach area.

Conditions for breeding
For breeding to occur, Southern Cassowaries require an abundant supply of fruit for food, especially of species of Lauraceae (Marchant & Higgins 1990). The actual environmental cues for initiating breeding are unknown, although it is thought that mating is timed so that chicks hatch into the period of high food abundance associated with the tropical wet season (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Nesting success
Over a three year period Bentrupperbäumer (1992a, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) recorded that 26 males hatched 131 chicks in the Mission Beach area, while Moore and Moore (2001, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) observed that 16 males hatched a minimum of 31 chicks over a single breeding season.

In the Kennedy Bay area (the only site from which data are available), the breeding success from laying until independence was 25% over three years; of eight eggs, five hatched and two survived to independence. This equated to an average reproductive rate of 0.67 young raised to independence out of each clutch at the site (Bentrupperbäumer 1998, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Breeding behaviour that makes the species vulnerable to a threatening process
Southern Cassowaries nest on the ground making the eggs and young vulnerable to possible predation by pigs (Sus scrofa) and Lace Monitors (Varanus varius) (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Southern Cassowaries forage largely on fallen rainforest fruit, the taxa in their diet varying seasonally with availability, but Lauraceae (laurels), Elaeocarpaceae (quondongs), Myrtaceae (lilypillies) and Arecaceae (palms) are considered the most important. They are known to feed on over 100 plant species. The entire fruit is ingested. They have also been recorded feeding on Bracket fungi, flowers (including Freycinetia), Pond Apple (Anona glabra), Cyathea fronds, insects, snails, fish, frogs, Domestic Fowl (Gallus gallus), Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) nestlings and eggs, Chowchilla (Orthonyx spaldingi), rats (Rattus), mice (Mus musculus) and carrion (Barker & Vestjens 1989; Bentrupperbäumer 1998; Buosi & Burnett 2006; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Southern Cassowaries feed on rainforest fruit which is seasonal, therefore require a diverse habitat to provide them with a year round supply of food. They may have to move out of their preferred habitat when the food supply is reduced to seek food elsewhere, and may move into open areas where they are more vulnerable (Crome & Bentrupperbäumer 1993). Areas in which they forage are apparently traditional and reached by well worn tracks. Birds may remain at a food source for days at a time (Bentrupperbäumer 1998; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990). One study indicated Southern Cassowaries spent 35% of the day foraging, with peaks in activity in the early morning and late afternoon (Westcott et al. 2005, cited in Latch 2007).

Most seeds ingested by Southern Cassowaries retain their viability and are passed whole (Bentrupperbäumer 1992; Crome & Moore 1990; Stocker & Irvine 1983, cited in Latch 2007). Dung is large and often contains thousands of seeds. Passage of some seeds through Southern Cassowaries can improve seed germination rates (Webber & Woodrow 2004, cited in Latch 2007). Southern Cassowaries are one of only a few frugivores that can disperse large rainforest fruits and are the only long distance dispersal mechanism for large seeded fruits (Crome & Moore 1988; Westcott et al. 2005, cited in Latch 2007). It is likely they play a critical role in rainforest ecosystem dynamics (Latch 2007).

Southern Cassowaries are considered to be sedentary nomads within a large home range. They are known to disperse across open country, particularly after disturbance of forest by cyclones, and they are also capable swimmers in response to harassment (dogs or other cassowaries) or when local resources are limited (Burnett n.d., cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006). As adults are sedentary once they have established a home territory, dispersing birds are thought to be mainly sub-adults which lead a fugitive existence, hounded from the home ranges of adult males and females until they die or claim a home range themselves (Buosi & Burnett 2006; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Vegetated corridors connecting Southern Cassowary habitat are important and allow them to move through the landscape (Latch 2007). Habitat corridors may comprise remnant habitat, regenerated habitat or artificially created habitat (DEWHA 2009v). Cassowaries are known to move between areas of favourable feeding habitat, even if it involves traversing open ground. Patches of vegetation that are regularly visited are generally greater than 5 ha in size and no greater than 1 km apart (Kutt et al. 2004). Cassowaries, including dispersing young, often use riparian corridors to move between habitat patches, moving a distance of up to 2–3 km along them (Kutt et al. 2004).

Home range
Male and female Southern Cassowary maintain independent, but overlapping, territories or home ranges (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990). The terms territories and home ranges are often used interchangeably, though territories usually denote areas that are defended.

Southern Cassowaries are solitary by nature and require large amounts of food (fruit) to survive and, thus, their home range is often large. Home ranges may be 0.5–5 km² in size in coastal lowlands but up to 12 km² in upland regions. Bentrupperbäumer's (1998) study in the Kennedy Bay National Park area found home ranges averaged 75.26 ha (0.75 km²) (n=8), and ranged from 0.52–1.36 km² with females having slightly smaller home ranges than males. Birds sometimes travelled a linear distances of over 4 km a day within their home ranges. Home range size also varied in the short term in response to fruit availability, but adults exhibited high fidelity to core areas within their home range. Another study in the Mission Beach area (Moore & Moore 1991, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) estimated homes ranges of 1.65–2.53 km² (understood to be based on 43 adults and 25 sub-adults but this is unclear) with many birds travelling linear distances of 2–4 km.

In the Daintree lowlands, home ranges were found to be similar to those in the lowland areas of Mission Beach (1–3 km²) but two birds in sub-optimum habitat in the Daintree area had home ranges of 4.17–5.76 km² (Moore & Moore 1999a, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006). In less productive areas, home ranges are likely to be larger again. Established adults may move further afield in times of short food supply, such as after Cyclone Winifred (Bentrupperbäumer 1998; Moore & Moore 1999a, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006; Moore & Moore 2001, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Males, who are responsible for parental care, occupy home ranges with limited overlap with other male territories. Female ranges tend to overlap more with male territories (Bentrupperbäumer 1998).

Southern Cassowaries may tolerate each other in areas where fallen fruit is super abundant, and have been known to congregate in areas when artificially fed on a regular basis (Latch 2007).

Although Southern Cassowaries are naturally wary, their size and distinctive appearance render them highly visible creatures; they also leave conspicuous signs (scats, footprints) of their presence (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Surveying for Southern Cassowary presence
On ground presence/absence surveys of the Southern Cassowary can be determined by investigation of scats, footprints, sightings and community knowledge (Birds Australia 2004).

Recommended survey methods include area searches or transect surveys in suitable habitat, with detection by sightings, calls and presence of signs including scats and footprints. The recommended minimum search effort is 20 person hours for areas < 50 ha. They should be conducted over 10 days, as the likelihood of detection is usually greater when surveys are conducted over different days (Birds Australia 2004).

Short term surveys may not detect areas used by cassowaries seasonally or during times of food or resource shortages, but this can be investigated by contacting local information sources. Local and state government agencies are an essential source of information on cassowary and their distribution. This includes the Wet Tropics Management Authority, Queensland Environment Protection Agency, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and local government councils. Local community groups such as Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation Incorporated also hold information on cassowary sightings (Birds Australia 2004).

Surveying for Southern Cassowary abundance
Surveying for the abundance of Southern Cassowaries is difficult. Early attempts to assess abundance used density of signs (e.g. dung) as a surrogate for the density of birds (Crome & Moore 1990), but this approach was subsequently shown to be problematic (Westcott 1999). Individual birds can be distinguished by variation in their facial, neck, wattle and other morphological features (Bentrupperbäumer 1998). Later focal area studies throughout the Wet Tropics (e.g. Moore & Crome 1992; Bentrupperbäumer 1992a, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) used bird visibility, the individual appearance of adult birds and community interest to develop individual profiles and absolute population estimates for birds in these areas. However, this approach only works in certain situations, (i.e. geographically well-defined areas where birds are habituated to humans), and is of limited usefulness for broader population estimations (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Crome & Moore (1993) developed a comprehensive system for locating and visually identifying individual birds within large areas of remote forest. This appears to have been further developed by Moore during the course of many field surveys (see Buosi & Burnett 2006; Moore 2006). ACTFR (1998a, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) and Earthworks (2000a, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) modified the methodology of Crome & Moore (1990, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) in an attempt to further develop a quantitative criteria system for attributing signs to individual cassowaries. A weakness of this latter method is that it relies on assumptions about cassowary movements which, in general, are poorly known and which are unlikely to hold over all survey areas. More recently, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has been developing a system of individual recognition based on DNA extracted from scats (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Recommended survey method
A good overview of recommended survey methods is presented in the significant impact guidelines for the Southern Cassowary (DEWHA 2009v). Recommendations include a survey effort guide for presence/absence and habitat assessment. Analysis of abundance methods is also presented with a description of key aspects that should be considered (DEWHA 2009v). Key survey recommendations include (DEWHA 2009v):

  • In areas of less than 50 ha, presence/absence should use 20 person hours over 10 days (conducted over different days).
  • Short-term surveys may not detect cassowaries in seasonal habitat or during periods of resource shortage.
  • Assessing abundance can be problematic and accurate methods require identification of individuals, which can be labour intense.
  • Up to 1 km beyond identified habitat, riparian corridors, water bodies and food resources are also important.

The Southern Cassowary is sensitive to some human activities becasue of the following traits (DEWHA 2009v):

  • increasingly fragmented and isolated distribution
  • seasonal habitat requirements li>limited ability to disperse through altered landscapes
  • large home range (up to 12 km² in sub-optimal habitat)
  • need for large (> 5 ha) connected patches of foraging habitat
  • daily access to fresh water.

Habitat loss
The major threat to the species comes from historical and ongoing clearing of its habitat. Crome and Moore (1990) identified that clearing has been most extensive in what was probably one of the most important Southern Cassowary habitat areas - the Russell to Murray River lowlands. Before 1997, 80.7% of all habitats in the Wet Tropics coastal lowlands (i.e. areas < 80 m asl) had been cleared, and the remainder was highly fragmented (EPA 2004, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006). Bentrupperbäumer's (1992, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) survey noted that 55% of the coastal forests and 70% of the hinterland forests in the Mission Beach area had been cleared before 1992.

Habitat fragmentation
Clearing also leads to fragmentation of remaining habitat. Fragmentation disrupts the movement paths of individual Southern Cassowaries, may segregate feeding and breeding sections of an individual's range and isolates habitat patches, predisposing the species to the effects of genetic isolation and possibly leading to local extinctions. Individuals forced to disperse from fragmented habitat through developed landscapes are at greater risk of mortality through car strikes and dog attacks (Latch 2007). Once numbers in isolated areas are low, populations are unable to quickly re-establish themselves due to low chick survivorship, low annual productivity and the long-deferred maturity (Crome & Moore 1990; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Latch 2007; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Fragmentation appears to have resulted in the extinction of Southern Cassowaries from several large habitat fragments including Lakes Barrine and Eacham, the Malanda Scrub and parts of the Atherton Tablelands, the lower Goldsborough Valley, the floor of the Whyanbeel valley, the Clohesy River region, and the Southern Cassowary Range (Crome & Moore 1988). Fragmentation has also created a situation in which many other populations on the coastal lowlands are now isolated and their future uncertain, e.g. Moresby Range, Malbon Thomson Range and Mission Beach (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Habitat linkages between suitable areas of habitat are generally not well protected, and are rapidly disappearing with the pressures of residential and agricultural development. Unless areas of unprotected habitat in key corridors are protected, the Wet Tropics population of the Southern Cassowary will continue to decline and more local populations will disappear (QPWS 2002).

A population viability analysis has been modelled for the Mission Beach area (Moore 2003). The model is outlined and discussed in Buosi & Burnettt (2006). The key limiting factor for the population appears to be the lack of immigration into the population due to loss of connectivity with outside areas.

Habitat degradation
Selective logging, weed invasion and disturbance to rainforest by changed fire regimes are all considered factors that degrade habitat quality for Southern Cassowaries, decreasing shelter, as well as degrading breeding sites and food sources. It has been suggested that Southern Cassowaries can tolerate some structural damage to their habitat and that an intermediate level of damage, particularly that which promotes high species diversity, may favour them. Severe fires can progressively destroy rainforest on steep slopes, however the maintenance of sclerophyll communities utilised by Southern Cassowaries is dependant on the presence of fire (Latch 2007).

Pond Apple (Annona glabra), a woody tree that forms thickets, is one of the most threatening environmental weeds of the Wet Tropics. Pond Apple thickets can render an area unsuitable for foraging except during the Pond Apple fruiting season. Southern Cassowaries are attracted to feeding on Pond Apple, aiding in the dispersal of the weed and exacerbating its spread. When Pond Apple occurs along main roads, the risk of vehicles striking cassowaries is significantly increased (Latch 2007).

Fresh water is an essential element of this bird's habitat and anything which results in alteration to the quantity or quality of that water is a further example of habitat degradation (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Vehicle collisions
Roadkill is the major cause of known Southern Cassowary mortality in the Wet Tropics area, especially in urban/peri-urban areas that encroach on habitat (DEWHA 2009v). Over a two year period from 1990 to 1992, 14 cassowaries, including seven adults, four sub-adults and three chicks were killed on the region's roads (Bentrupperbäumer 1998). Between January 1992 to June 2005, 53 Southern Cassowaries of all age classes are known to have died on roads in the Mission Beach area (QPWS n.d., cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) while the national recovery plan (Latch 2007) details that between 2001–2005, car strike accounted for 76% of all deaths of Southern Cassowary in the Mission Beach area.

The risk of roadkill is exacerbated by urban encroachment and people hand-feeding birds (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Interactions with dogs
Dog attacks may cause injury and death of birds as well as potentially affecting Southern Cassowary behaviour. An adult Southern Cassowary is able to defend itself against most lone dogs. Sub-adults and chicks, and birds attacked by multiple dogs, are much more susceptible to mortality. Since 1992, around six or seven Southern Cassowaries are known to have been killed by dogs in the Mission Beach area (QPWS n.d., cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006; Latch 2007) but it is likely that the real number is higher, as attacks may go unnoticed or may not be reported by dog owners. Deaths from dog attack may have contributed to the extinction of Southern Cassowaries in the Whitfield Range area (Buosi & Burnett 2006). The risk of attack is increased in areas adjacent to residences, agricultural land and in areas where dogs are used for pig hunting (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Pigs
Pigs are listed as a potential threat in most management plans (e.g. Garnett & Crowley 2000; QPWS 2002), but there is limited data to support this (Buosi & Burnett 2006). Crome and Moore (1990) provide anecdotal information to suggest that pigs may prey on Southern Cassowary eggs and young chicks. However, Bentrupperbäumer (1998) observed pigs foraging within metres of, and effectively ignoring, a male Southern Cassowary on a nest, and Buosi and Burnett (2006) observed males with broods of chicks at sites with large populations of pigs. Pigs probably compete with Southern Cassowaries for fallen fruit. Pig traps are also known to have resulted in the deaths of some birds (Bentrupperbäumer 1998), but Southern Cassowary exclusion devices appear to have reduced this incidence (Buosi & Burnett 2006). Pigs wallowing and rooting around the edges of watercourses and swamps degrade habitat and affect water quality (Latch 2007).

Habituation to humans
Habituation poses a significant threat to Southern Cassowary populations. Invariably it arises as a consequence of urban encroachment and hand-feeding by people. This results in birds becoming accustomed to humans and cars and spending proportionally more time in dangerous situations, e.g. roadsides and peri-urban areas where they are exposed to vehicle strikes and dog attack (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Hunting
Hunting by Europeans and Aborigines, for food and to protect crops, has reduced numbers of Southern Cassowary, with some birds being deliberately shot by humans for no apparent reason (Crome & Moore 1990; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990; QPWS 2002).

Climate
Climatic conditions can threaten Southern Cassowaries, for example, by causing the temporary loss of resources or, in some areas, by isolating populations. The impacts of these natural events may at times be locally catastrophic to populations (Buosi & Burnett 2006). At least 18% of all adult and sub-adult Southern Cassowaries in the Mission Beach area died in the 12 months after Cyclone Larry hit in March 2006; all the dependent chicks disappeared and were presumed killed in the tropical cyclone (Moore 2008).

Twenty years earlier, Cyclone Winifred caused significant hardship to Southern Cassowaries in the Mission Beach area when it stripped the forest foliage, resulting in a severe shortage of food and shelter (Bentrupperbäumer 1998). Crome and Moore (1990) indicate that after a cyclone in 1918, birds were sighted at Glen Dhu Station, about 90–100 km west of their normal range, presumably in response to a food shortage within their normal habitat.

It is likely that the drought conditions of the early 2000s resulted in the decline of some Southern Cassowary populations due to poor fruiting by rainforest trees and possibly a reduction in the availability of free water. Severe flooding events are also known to impact Southern Cassowaries (Buosi & Burnett 2006). A number of birds were reported drowned in the lower Mulgrave River following flooding in 1890 (Meston 1894, cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006) and a sub-adult bird drowned in Hencamp Creek following flooding rains there in the mid-1990s (Burnett n.d., cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Longer term climatic cycles (over thousands of years), which lead to habitat isolation and development of sub-optimum habitat also threaten some populations (namely the Paluma population), as they can lead to the creation of numerically small and isolated populations occupying substandard habitat (Buosi & Burnett 2006).

Disease
Disease is known to have killed Southern Cassowaries, and to have weakened birds that were subsequently killed by motor vehicles and dogs (Buosi & Burnett 2006). Autopsies have confirmed the incidence of Aspergillosis (Aspergillus fumigatus), and Avian Tuberculosis (avian TB) (Mycobacterium avium) in Southern Cassowaries (QPWS n.d., cited in Buosi & Burnett 2006). At least three birds autopsied from the Mission Beach area are thought to have died directly as a result of avian TB. Most dead birds that have been studied have been shown to carry the disease. At present, the long-term implications of this disease on Southern Cassowary populations is unknown. It is unclear if (or how) other threats may compromise the immune system of birds rendering them more susceptible to such diseases (Buosi & Burnett 2006). Moore (2008) suggests the immune systems of Southern Cassowaries at Mission Beach have been weakened by the lack of food and stress associated with impact of Cyclone Larry.

Recovery Team
The Southern Cassowary Recovery Team oversees the recovery plan (Lach 2007). A Cassowary Advisory Group provides advice and involvement from the community, and the Scientific Advisory Group provides scientific advice. An education program has been established to inform locals and tourists of the threats of hand-feeding, speeding vehicles and dogs (Crome & Moore 1990; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990; QPWS 2002).

National Recovery Plan Actions
The overall objective of the recovery plan is to secure the long-term protection of Southern Cassowary populations through improved planning mechanisms supported by robust monitoring, threat abatement and community engagement programs (Latch 2007). Specific objectives and a summary of actions within the plan include (Latch 2007):

Protect essential cassowary habitat and landscape corridors

  • Complete mapping of essential cassowary habitat.
  • Identify and prioritise areas of essential habitat for protection and management.
  • Identify and prioritise habitat corridors for protection, restoration and management.
  • Investigate strategies to conserve cassowary habitat on private lands.

Institute a more coordinated and stronger planning response to development issues in Southern Cassowary habitat

  • Strengthen linkages with other planning mechanisms to ensure an integrated and more consistent approach to cassowary conservation.
  • Develop and implement Cassowary Conservation Local Area Plans.
  • Investigate development of other statutory planning instruments to minimise impacts of development on Southern Cassowaries.

Implement strategies to protect cassowary populations by minimising the adverse impacts of roads, dogs, pigs and cyclone events

  • Minimise Southern Cassowary road mortality and injury.
  • Implement appropriate dog control to minimise dog attacks on Southern Cassowaries.
  • Assess potential impacts of pigs on Southern Cassowaries.
  • Support existing planning and management strategies that target pests and weeds in Southern Cassowary habitat.
  • Manage threats arising from human-Southern Cassowary interaction.
  • Develop and implement, if required, a post-cyclone response strategy.

Progress an effective Southern Cassowary rescue, rehabilitation and release programme

  • Continue to implement the cassowary rescue programme.
  • Implement Environmental Protection Authority translocation strategy.

Cassowary populations are monitored to assess population size, trends and status

  • Develop and implement a population survey methodology based on faecal DNA.
  • Establish and implement a monitoring protocol in key habitat areas.
  • Assess size of Wet Tropics and Cape York populations and develop population viability models.
  • Monitor and assess the effectiveness of corridors in facilitating Southern Cassowary movement.
  • Maintain a Southern Cassowary database.

Improve understanding of cassowary ecology and threats to its survival to better inform Southern Cassowary recovery

  • Undertake a population study of Southern Cassowaries at Mission Beach.
  • Determine the population genetic structure of Southern Cassowaries.
  • Determine the survival rate and cause of mortality of sub-adults in different habitats.
  • Investigate prevalence of disease in Southern Cassowaries and the factors affecting its epidemiology.

Engage the community in Southern Cassowary conservation and education

  • Involve community in Southern Cassowary conservation.
  • Promote and publicise recovery plan.
  • Ensure Aboriginal communities participate in all aspects of the recovery process.
  • Document traditional cultural knowledge of Southern Cassowaries.

Manage the recovery programme

  • Ensure recovery plan implementation is coordinated effectively.
  • Review the recovery plan. (Latch 2007)

Significant impact guidelines
The significant impact guidelines for the Southern Cassowary (DEWHA 2009v) is a policy statement that clarifies impact thresholds of matters of national environmental significance relevant to the species. The document provides survey guidelines, defines potential habitat for the species, identifies significant impacts and defines impact thresholds for the species (DEWHA 2009v).

Significant impact thresholds
Refer to the policy statement for a description significant impact thresholds and how to assess them (DEWHA 2009v). The following list highlights actions that may exceed significant impact thresholds (DEWHA 2009v):

  • Clearing of habitat, certain forestry activity, subdivision that may lead to clearing, and clearing that decreases quality, availability and access to water.
  • Habitat degradation which leads to weed invasion, animal invasion (pigs and dogs), vehicle use (off-road), detrimental logging access and removal of food trees. Habitat degradation that decreases quality and access to water.
  • Fragmentation and isolation of populations such as reduced connectivity (road development, fencing, drainage channels, infrastructure development and subdivision), access to water reduced or prevented, and reduced ability to move within corridors.
  • Actions that increase the chances of road and traffic mortality including increased traffic volume, increased vehicle speed limits, actions at known cassowary crossing points or new roads within movement corridors.

Suggested mitigation measures
Refer to the policy statement for a description of suggested mitigation measures (DEWHA 2009v). Key suggested mitigation measures include (DEWHA 2009v):

  • Avoiding impacts by retaining patches, limiting impacts of roads, avoiding interaction of people and cassowaries, excluding dogs and only building fences that have a positive impact on the species.
  • Minimising impacts through limiting cassowary interaction with dogs and people, limiting impacts of roads and limiting impacts of fences.
  • Managing habitat through the design and appropriate management of habitat corridors.

The following projects have received Government funding grants for conservation and recovery work benefitting the Southern Cassowary:
The Community for Cassowary and Coastal Conservation Incorporated received $10 364 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants 2007–08. This project aims to revegetate a significant area of Southern Cassowary habitat, providing a corridor for movement of the species. The project encompasses community involvement and community education about the importance of specific native plants to Southern Cassowary conservation.

The Australian Rainforest Foundation received $18 182 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants 2007–08. The project involves nursery production in cooperation with local nurseries and seed collectors (i.e. the Daintree Cassowary Care Group), large-scale site preparation, and native vegetation planting to rehabilitate degraded and cleared Southern Cassowary habitat on Australian Rainforest Foundation owned land in the Daintree. This will provide food trees for cassowaries and connectivity with the nearby Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and National Park. The project aims to establish a long-term weed and pest management regime and the development and delivery of educational and training-based programs for the local community.

Kuranda Envirocare Inorporated received $3825 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2006–07 for development of community expertise to ensure the achievement of key aspects of the recovery plan.

The Community for Cassowary and Coastal Conservation received $10 100 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2005–06 for engagement of the wider community in Southern Cassowary conservation with an emphasis upon the restoration and conservation of habitat.

Malanda and Upper Johnstone Catchment Landcare received $5400 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2005–06 for restoration of connectivity between northern and southern portions of significant patch of endangered regional ecosystem on the Atherton Tablelands for this species.

Eric, Alison and Wayne Morris received $15 600 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2004–05 for protection of remnant vegetation on South Maria Creek and enlargement of habitat for this species, as well as for the planting of 8000 native species to create corridors.

Kuranda Envirocare Incorporated received $600 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2004–05 for species and habitat monitoring in the Kuranda region of the wet tropics.

The Jamarr Envirogroup received $5210 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2003–04, part of which was for the re-establishment of corridors, chiefly along creeks, to enable habitat connectivity and reduce dog attacks on this species, and for encouragement of co-operation and emulation by additional landholders.

Conservation Volunteers Australia received $25 000 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2001–02 for planning to identify areas of remnant vegetation on private land and to halt the process of degradation, as well as to maintain cassowary habitat corridors between the coastal strip and ranges to the west.

Buosi and Burnett (2006) summarise most studies undertaken in the Wet Tropics. Significant studies on the Southern Cassowary include those undertaken in the Wet Tropics during the 1990s (Crome & Moore 1990, 1993), and those around Mission Beach (Bentrupperbäumer 1998; Moore 2003). A population viability analysis has been modelled for the Mission Beach area and is discussed in Buosi and Burnett (2006).

Key management documents for the Southern Cassowary include:

  • Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch 2007)
  • Distribution of Cassowary habitat in the Wet Tropics Bioregion, Queensland - Technical Report to Queensland Environment Protection Agency (Kutt et al. 2004)
  • A framework to establish lowland habitat linkages for the Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) between Cairns and Cardwell (Biotropica Australia 2005)
  • Mission Beach Habitat Network Action Plan (Hill et al. 2009).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley, 2000) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Recovery Plan for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuaris johnsonii 2001-2005 (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), 2002) [State Recovery Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Land clearance (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2001w) [Listing Advice].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes The Southern Cassowary in North Queensland - a Pilot Study. Vol. 1-4 (Crome, F.H.J. & L.A. Moore, 1988) [Report].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat loss and modification due to clearance of native vegetation and pasture improvements The Impact of Global Warming on the Distribution of Threatened Vertebrates (ANZECC 1991) (Dexter, E.M., A.D. Chapman & J.R. Busby, 1995) [Report].
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Indigenous hunting and harvesting Recovery Plan for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuaris johnsonii 2001-2005 (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), 2002) [State Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Hunting and Collecting Terrestrial Animals:Illegal hunting/harvesting and collection Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Biological Resource Use:Hunting and Collecting Terrestrial Animals:illegal control Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat disturbance due to foresty activities Recovery Plan for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuaris johnsonii 2001-2005 (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), 2002) [State Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat loss, modification and degradation due to timber harvesting Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate change altering atmosphere/hydrosphere temperatures, rainfall patterns and/or frequency of severe weather events Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat loss, modification and/or degradation Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Storms and Flooding:Natural events such as storms and cyclones leading to habitat destruction and flora/fauna mortality Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human induced disturbance due to unspecified activities Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Recreational Activities:Disturbance, especially from human recreational activities and development Recovery Plan for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuaris johnsonii 2001-2005 (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), 2002) [State Recovery Plan].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Recreational Activities:shooting The Southern Cassowary in North Queensland - a Pilot Study. Vol. 1-4 (Crome, F.H.J. & L.A. Moore, 1988) [Report].
Cassowaries in north-eastern Queensland: report of a survey and a review and assessment of their status and conservation and management needs. Australian Wildlife Research. 17:369-385. (Crome, F.H.J. & L.A. Moore, 1990) [Journal].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Annona glabra (Pond Apple, Pond-apple Tree, Alligator Apple, Bullock's Heart, Cherimoya, Monkey Apple, Bobwood, Corkwood) Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Canis lupus familiaris (Domestic Dog) Reciprocal ecosystem impact and behavioural interactions between cassowaries, Casuarius casuarius, and humans, Homo sapiens, exploring the natural-human environment interface and its implications for endangered species recovery Ph.D. Thesis. (Bentrupperbäumer, J.M., 1998) [Ph.D. Thesis].
The Southern Cassowary in North Queensland - a Pilot Study. Vol. 1-4 (Crome, F.H.J. & L.A. Moore, 1988) [Report].
Cassowaries in north-eastern Queensland: report of a survey and a review and assessment of their status and conservation and management needs. Australian Wildlife Research. 17:369-385. (Crome, F.H.J. & L.A. Moore, 1990) [Journal].
Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Recovery Plan for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuaris johnsonii 2001-2005 (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), 2002) [State Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Sus scrofa (Pig) Reciprocal ecosystem impact and behavioural interactions between cassowaries, Casuarius casuarius, and humans, Homo sapiens, exploring the natural-human environment interface and its implications for endangered species recovery Ph.D. Thesis. (Bentrupperbäumer, J.M., 1998) [Ph.D. Thesis].
Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Recovery Plan for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuaris johnsonii 2001-2005 (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), 2002) [State Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Habitat degradation and mortality caused by Aspergillus fumigatus Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Infection by parasites Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Mortality caused by avian tuberculosis (Mycobacterium avium) Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Predation, competition, habitat degradation and/or spread of pathogens by introduced species Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Presence of pathogens and resulting disease Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Problematic Native Species:Presence of pathogens and resultant disease Recovery Plan for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuaris johnsonii 2001-2005 (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), 2002) [State Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate prescribed regimes and/or vegetation management to control fire regimes Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Residential and Commercial Development:Housing and Urban Areas:Fauna collision with human infrastructure such as windows Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Residential and Commercial Development:Housing and Urban Areas:Habitat clearance for rural, peri-urban and urban development Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Residential and Commercial Development:Housing and Urban Areas:Habitat loss, modification and fragmentation due to urban development Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Recovery Plan for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuaris johnsonii 2001-2005 (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), 2002) [State Recovery Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Land clearance (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2001w) [Listing Advice].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low genetic diversity and genetic inbreeding Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].
Recovery Plan for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuaris johnsonii 2001-2005 (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), 2002) [State Recovery Plan].
Transportation and Service Corridors:Roads and Railroads:Vehicle related mortality Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006er) [Internet].
Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Latch, P., 2007) [Recovery Plan].

Barker, R.D. & W.J.M. Vestjens (1989). The Food of Australian Birds. 1 Non-Passerines. Lyneham, ACT: CSIRO.

Bentrupperbäumer, J.M. (1998). Reciprocal ecosystem impact and behavioural interactions between cassowaries, Casuarius casuarius, and humans, Homo sapiens, exploring the natural-human environment interface and its implications for endangered species recovery. Ph.D. Thesis. Townsville: James Cook University of North Queensland.

Biotropica Australia (2005). A framework to establish lowland habitat linkages for the Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) between Cairns and Cardwell. Report commissioned by the Australian Rainforest Foundation.

Birds Australia (2004). Draft survey standards for birds. Species accounts. Report prepared for DEH. Melbourne: Birds Australia.

Buosi, P. & S. Burnett (2006). The Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii): Review of Values and Threats in the Wet Tropics Bioregion, Queensland. A report for DEH. Queensland: Natural Resources Assessments Environmental Consultants.

Crome, F.H.J. & J. Bentrupperbäumer (1991). Management of Cassowaries in the fragmented rainforests of north Queensland. Unpublished report to the Endangered Species Programme of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Crome, F.H.J. & J. Bentrupperbäumer (1993). Special people, a special animal and a special vision: the first steps to restoring a fragmented tropical landscape. In: Saunders, D.A., R.J. Hobbs & P.R. Ehrlich, eds. Nature Conservation 3: The Reconstruction of Fragmented Ecosystems. Page(s) 267-279. Chipping Norton, NSW: Surrey Beatty & Sons.

Crome, F.H.J. & L.A. Moore (1988). The Southern Cassowary in North Queensland - a Pilot Study. Vol. 1-4. Atherton, Queensland: CSIRO.

Crome, F.H.J. & L.A. Moore (1990). Cassowaries in north-eastern Queensland: report of a survey and a review and assessment of their status and conservation and management needs. Australian Wildlife Research. 17:369-385.

Crome, F.H.J. & L.A. Moore (1993). Cassowary populations and their conservation between the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation. II Background, Survey Results and Analysis. Unpublished report to the Douglas Shire Council.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2009v). Significant Impact Guidelines for the endangered southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) Wet Tropics Population. EPBC Act policy statement 3.15. [Online]. Canberra: DEWHA. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/casuarius-casuarius-johnsonii.html.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/birds2000/index.html.

Hill, R., K.J. Williams, P.L. Pert, R. Grace, T. O¿Malley & S. Jenkins (2009). Mission Beach Habitat Network Action Plan. http://www.terrain.org.au/programs/biodiversity/mission-beach.html. Public Consultation Draft. Cairns: CSIRO and Terrain Natural Resource Management.

Kutt, A.S., S. King, S.T. Garnett & P. Latch (2004). Distribution of Cassowary habitat in the Wet Tropics Bioregion, Queensland - Technical Report to Queensland Environment Protection Agency. Brisbane, Queensland: Environment Protection Agency.

Latch, P. (2007). Recovery plan for the southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii. [Online]. Report to Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Environmental Protection Agency. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/southern-cassowary/index.html.

Marchant, S. & P.J. Higgins, eds. (1990). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume One - Ratites to Ducks. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Moore, L. (2003). Ecology and population viability analysis of the southern cassowary, Causarius casuarius johnsonii, Mission Beach, north Queensland. Page(s) 202. M.Sc. Thesis. Townsville: James Cook University.

Moore, L. (2008). Cassowaries still feeling cyclone pain. [Online]. ABC News In Science Online Report published 21/02/2008 viewed on 24/07/2008. Available from: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/02/21/2166195.htm.

Moore, L. & N. Moore (2007). Implications of environmental catastrophes and climate change for the management of an endangered species: the Southern Cassoawary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii. Unpublished report.

Pizzey, G. & F. Knight (1999). The Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Pymble, Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) (2002). Recovery Plan for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuaris johnsonii 2001-2005. [Online]. Brisbane: Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/southern-cassowary/index.html.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) (2003). The status of cassowaries on Cape York Peninsula. Unpublished report to the Cape York Natural Heritage Trust, Department of Environment and Heritage.

Westcott, D.A. (1999). Counting cassowaries - what does Cassowary sign reveal about their abundance. Wildlife Research. 26:61-68.

Westcott, D.A. & K. Reid (2002). Use of medetomidine for capture and restraint of cassowaries (Casuarius casuarius). Australian Veterinary Journal. 80:150-153.

Westcott, D.A., J. Bentrupperbäumer, M.G. Bradford & A. McKeown (2005). Incorporating patterns of disperser behaviour into models of seed dispersal and its effects on estimated dispersal curves. Oecologia. 146:56-67.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:56:32 +1000.