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Cassowary

Taronga Zoo’s Cassowaries can now be seen in their refurbished rainforest exhibit.

The male and female Cassowaries are sharing separate parts of the exhibit as keepers prepare to move them back together for breeding.

Bird Supervisor Michael Shiels says that the last Cassowary hatched at Taronga was in 1986, so this is the first breeding pair at Taronga in nearly 30 years.

Last year, the pair laid eggs, however the clutch was infertile, so Taronga keepers are hoping for a more successful result this year.

The success of the pair is vitally important as current estimates fear fewer than 1,000 birds are left in the Australian wild, with rapid development already eliminating 85% of its lowland tropical rainforest habitat.

Little known to most Australians, and over 80 million years old, this ‘living dinosaur’ is a keystone species - vital to the rainforest’s ecological functionality as a “Rainforest Gardener”, dispersing seeds of at least 238 rainforest plant and tree species.

Cassowaries are famous for their spectacular head crest or casque. They can grow to be about 1.8 m tall.

In 2007 the Cassowary population at Mission Beach was estimated at 110; today it is estimated at just 40-50 birds partly due to the damage caused by Cycloane Yasi in 2011.

Cassowaries are similar to Emus and Ostriches in that after the female has laid her eggs, the male will sit on them and incubate them between 47 - 54 days.

 Once the eggs have hatched, the male Cassowary will look after the young chicks until they are able to fend for themselves.

Taronga is proud to be part of the ‘Save the Cassowary’ campaign led by Rainforest Rescue. This is a national campaign that aims to educate the general public, increase awareness and raise funds to address the plight of the Southern Cassowary in Australia.

 It is expected that the wide engagement will provide opportunities to develop new expertise in the fields of biodiversity conservation in the Wet Tropics. The Zoo and Aquarium Association and several zoos across Australia support this campaign. Visit savethecassowary.org.au for more information.

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