Cassowaries in Far North Queensland*:
A cassowary has no tail, muscular legs and three toes. The inside toe bears a large dagger-shaped claw that a cassowary uses as a defence weapon. When a cassowary is cornered or protecting it’s chicks, it kicks out with both feet at once, and can injure, or even kill, dogs or humans. Cassowaries however are shy and solitary birds and are more likely to dash off when alarmed. A cassowary can reach speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour in short sprints and are also known to swim.
Aside from being an icon of tourism in Far North Queensland, cassowaries also play an integral part in the maintenance of the rainforest ecosystem. Cassowaries eat up to 150 different fruits; and an estimated 70 to 100 plant species depend almost entirely on the cassowary for seed dispersal. A cassowary makes it’s own “mini-compost pile” which helps enrich the rainforest via the distribution of spreading seeds via it’s waste.
The Southern Cassowary, which is found in Far North Queensland is listed as endangered under both Queensland and Commonwealth legislation. There are an estimated 4,000 cassowaries left in Australia.
* Read more about Cassowaries at Rainforest Rescue