Southern cassowary chick born in Perth

By AG Staff Writer March 24, 2016
Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page
Perth Zoo in Western Australia welcomed a new baby southern cassowary as part of a successful breeding program of the rare bird.

ON 18 FEBRUARY, Perth Zoo welcomed a new southern cassowary chick as part of its breeding program, joining two females and one male at the zoo’s rainforest enclosure.

Once female cassowaries lay eggs, they have almost no role in raising the chick, which is left up to the male. 

The sex of the chick won’t be known for a few months until DNA testing is done. It will develop its sleek black feathers and brilliant blue neck and head colouring at around two to four years of age.

With fewer than 2000 mature southern cassowaries (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) left in the wild in their native tropical north Queensland, every new birth of this incredible ‘living dinosaur’ species is cause for celebration.

New Australian dinosaur

The chick is now one of four cassowaries at Perth Zoo and is being raised by dad, ‘Marty’. (Image: Perth Zoo)

In its native habitate, the southern cassowary is ‘gardener’ of the rainforest, dispersing the seeds of more than 200 rainforest plants, on which an array of insects, birds and mammals depend for food and shelter. 

The incredibly rare bird is currently listed as ‘vulnberable’ by the IUCN Red List, largely due to habitat loss.

One of the largest birds in the world – growing up to 2m tall and weighing up to 75kg – and belonging to one of the most ancient lineages of birds, the species is often referred to as a ‘living dinosaur’. 

“Their prehistoric features like their massive feet, the casque on top of their head and even their breeding behaviour is thought to be similar to some dinosaur species which once roamed the earth,” said Perth Zoo keeper, Matt Ricci.

However, he added, “although there are many similarities between the cassowary and dinosaurs, we don’t want extinction to be one of them.” 

According to Matt, the breeding success at Perth Zoo helps raise awareness of the plight cassowaries in the wild “and helps put them one step further away from extinction,” he said.