Friday, December 5, 2008

The Cassowary

The Cassowary is a beautiful, large, flightless bird which is found in PNG and far northern Queensland. Cassowaries feed on the fruits of several hundred rainforest species and usually pass viable seeds in large dense scats. They are known to disperse seeds over distances greater than a kilometre, and thus probably play an important role in the ecosystem. Germination rates for seeds of the rare Australian rainforest tree Ryparosa were found to be much higher after passing through a cassowary's gut (92% versus 4%).

However there are many factors contributing to their decline:
· Hand feeding of Cassowaries poses a big threat to their survival. Contact with humans encourages Cassowaries to take most unsuitable food from picnic tables.
· In suburban areas the birds are more susceptible to vehicles
· Dogs - chase the birds away from potential food sources in suburban areas.
· Feral pigs are a huge problem. They probably destroy nests and eggs; but their worst effect is as competitors for food, which could be catastrophic for the Cassowaries during lean times. Pigs also contaminate water sources.

Click here to listen to the interview with Melbourne Zoo's Angelo Foresio.

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