Recovery plan for the southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii)
About this document
The southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii is a large flightless bird found in north Queensland rainforests and associated vegetation mosaics.
Current species status
The southern cassowary is listed as 'Endangered' under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992, the Wet Tropics population is listed as 'Endangered' and the Cape York populations are listed as 'Vulnerable'.
Habitat and distribution summary
Although occurring primarily in rainforest and associated vegetation, the cassowary also uses woodland, swamp and disturbed habitats for a year-round supply of fleshy fruits. It occurs in three broad populations. In the Wet Tropics it is distributed widely from Cooktown to just north of Townsville. Core habitat is coastal lowlands between Ingham and Mossman, and uplands in the southern Atherton Tablelands and other ranges. On Cape York, it occurs as two disjunct populations in vine-forest communities: one in MacIlwraith and Iron Ranges, the other in Shelburne Bay.
The Wet Tropics cassowary population is impacted upon by eight main threats. These same threats are absent or of lesser significance for the Cape York population.
- Habitat loss from clearing: more than 80 per cent of coastal lowland habitat has gone.
- Habitat fragmentation: much of remaining habitat is fragmented, isolating groups and disrupting movement.
- Habitat degradation: through invasion of weeds such as pond apple, and changed fire regimes.
- Roads and traffic: cassowaries are killed by vehicles on roads.
- Dog attacks: urban development brings more domestic dogs.
- Hand feeding: brings cassowaries closer to vehicle traffic and dogs.
- Diseases: aspergillosis, avian tuberculosis and parasites.
- Natural catastrophic events: cyclones.
Overall recovery objective
The overall objective of this recovery plan is to protect cassowaries, habitats and corridors from threats through better planning, monitoring and community involvement.
Summary of recovery actions
The following recovery actions are required:
- complete the mapping of essential cassowary habitat and identify areas and corridors to protect, restore and manage
- develop and implement Cassowary Conservation Local Area Plans as part of local planning
- minimise cassowary road deaths and dog attacks, and assess impact of pigs
- implement a translocation plan as part of rescue, rehabilitation and release
- establish a monitoring programme in key habitats
- develop and implement a population survey methodology based on faecal DNA
- study cassowary population at Mission Beach and determine genetic structure and
- involve community in cassowary conservation.
Evaluation and review
Members of the recovery team will review and evaluate progress annually. An independent external examiner will review and evaluate performance of the recovery plan within five years of the plan being adopted.