The Southern Cassowary is the most critically endangered species that we are working with at the Zoo. Australia Zoo currently has five Southern Cassowaries that are of vital genetic importance to the Australasian captive breeding program. It is hoped that we can help perpetuate the captive population so at some point in the future we may be able to release some individuals to the wild in areas of secure or restored habitat. Captive breeding develops techniques for the husbandry of the species that can be used for rehabilitating sick, injured and orphaned birds.
The greatest threat facing this sub-species is the continued destruction of their habitat. Once found roaming throughout most of the northern rainforests of Queensland, the populations of Southern Cassowary are now extremely fragmented. The Southern Cassowary requires large tracts of rainforest to find the forest fruits that it feeds on; these individual forest tree species produce fruit at varied times, so that even the destruction of a small area of forest within a cassowary’s range can have a detrimental effect. With 85 percent of the lowland rainforest and 75 percent of the upland rainforest already destroyed, the future looks grim for the species. Latest estimates have predicted a 20 percent decrease in the population of the cassowary over the next two generations.
Other factors affecting the cassowary population include a high fatality of both adult and juvenile birds from road accidents and dog attacks. These have already wiped out entire sub-populations.