Rainforest Rescue lobbies to save endangered cassowary /Newsport (copy 1)

Rainforest Rescue lobbies to save endangered cassowary

Tuesday March 18 2014

Conservationists fear cassowary numbers in far north Queensland have dwindled to a record low.

Known as the dinosaurs of the rainforest, researchers estimate less than 1000 cassowaries may be left in the wild due to loss of habitat, road strikes and dog attacks. 

Rainforest Rescue's Jennifer Croes said more than 60 cassowary deaths had been recorded from road strikes alone in the last decade.

Ms Croes said reduced speed limits in areas where cassowaries are often spotted should be considered. 

"Maybe we need to build underground tunnels or create a cassowary zone, kind of like a school zone," she said.

"We're looking into whether we can reduce speed limits from 80 kilometres down to 60 kilometres in some areas."

Loss of habitat due to development was forcing the animals onto the road, Ms Croes said. 

"That leads to fragmentation [of habitat] and forces these guys to cross the road to get from one place to the other," she said.

Ms Croes said a recent cassowary death near Mission Beach should serve as a timely warning that the bird needs to be protected.

"The incidents are occurring way too frequently. A lot of these are young cassowaries so that hurts numbers," she said.

Ms Croes said a recent campaign to reduce the number of Tasmanian devils dying from a deadly facial tumour disease showed that many Australians care about their native wildlife.

"The plight of the cassowary needs to be heard at a national level," she said.

"It's not like these birds are ill. They are just getting hammered because we can't seem to co-exist."

Cassowaries have lived in the region for an estimate 80 million years.

Tourism owner-operator, Leigh Jorgensen runs day trips to the Daintree rainforest with Trek North Safaris.

Mr Jorgensen said tourists loved seeing cassowaries in the wild.

"It's kind of like seeing the 'Bigfoot' of the Daintree," he said.

"It just makes their day. They feel like they've seen a beaufil creature.

"They don't have to see anything for the rest of the day and they're happy.

"It would be a real shame to see them lost. It's something quite unique to the region."

Ms Croes said she is lobbying the state government to take action.

"It's all about taking responsibility," she said.

"It's about appreciating that we live with this pre-historic bird and we're living amongst these animals.

"It is a privilege just to have them around us.

"I just really believe we need to fall in love with this bird."