Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cassowary Emergency Relief Update

Dear Bird Explorers Friends

We are monitoring the Cassowary Emergency Relief Operations following Cyclone Yasi in Queensland and letting all our friends and colleagues around the world know what is going on.

The Cassowary Relief Program is in full swing and the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) is now coordinating all the various governmental, private and NGO cassowary relief efforts. DERM has established a Cassowary Response Team (CRT).

Please see the update below from Deb Pople of DERM’s Wet Tropics Management Agency.

Hi everyone,

DERM staff have undertaken on-ground and “fly-over” assessments of some of the affected areas and the results are informing preparation of the response plan. The ranges behind Cardwell and Ingham are likely to have been affected, but have not yet been assessed (members of WTMA’s Scientific Advisory Committee who met yesterday are also concerned about mahogany glider habitat which has been hard hit – any observation from the area would be welcome). A further fly-over assessment of affected areas will occur tomorrow with Dr David Westcott CSIRO scientist and member of the Cassowary Recovery Team. Subject to aerial assessment, an aerial food drop at selected sites is expected to occur by the end of the week. New monitoring cameras are being purchased and GIS mapping from Cyclone Larry is being reviewed re. the location of feeding stations and cameras. Subject to access restrictions, feed stations will be progressively set up over the coming weeks. The Garner’s Beach Cassowary Facility has significant structural damage and no power but all 4 birds in care have survived and efforts are being made to make the facilityoperational as soon as possible.

DERM’s Cassowary Response Team (CRT) is being supported by a team at DERM’s head office, and information materials, media, briefings, etc from Cyclone Larry are being reviewed and updated to inform post-Yasi response. As previously stated, the views of Cassowary Recovery Team and those involved with the post-Larry response are welcome. Stakeholder engagement is being led by Cassowary Response Team and supported by WTMA. Terrain have also offered assistance within the Mission Beach community – thanks Tony. Bob Irwin, Save The Cassowary and Rainforest Rescue (let me know if you’re aware of any others) have all started campaigns to raise funds for post-cyclone cassowary conservation. A few of you have enquired about costs: the post cyclone Larry feeding program cost approximately $500,000 and ran for over 18 months. It’s not possible to calculate how much it will cost per cassowary per day to run the post Yasi programme, but DERM anticipates needing to supply approximately 1100 kg’s of fruit per week, and costs are likely to exceed several thousand dollars per week.

Andrew Millerd is speaking to Bob Irwin to discuss co-ordination of volunteer efforts, and we hope that everyone will be pulling together to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure the most effective outcomes. There is a lot of interest in cassowaries as a result of the cyclone, and if we caneffectively harness public concern it may help to leverage longer-term support for cassowary research, conservation, and habitat restoration. The speed of response from conservation groups has been amazing and will no doubt provide a vital contribution to recovery efforts.

From media reports, we’re aware that some residents in the Mission Beach area have started hand-feeding cassowaries. Please take every opportunity to discourage this. Habituation of birds to humans rarely ends well. We’ll be trying to ensure that information is disseminatedthroughout affected areas as soon as possible. We’ve also heard concerns from some of you about people speeding on the roads around Mission Beach despite the amount debris, and with cassowaries likely to be on the move this is a real concern. If you know these people, please remindthem to slow down. I think C4 has been distributing cassowary car stickers for a small donation? We’ll be happy to send some more down, just let us know.
I’ll send updates at least every few days to keep you all in the loop.

Best wishes, Deb
Deb Pople
Senior Planning Officer, Wet Tropics Management Agency

Telephone: 07 4052 0543 Facsimile: 07 4031 1364

Department of Environment and Resource Management
Level 1, Corporate Tower
15 Lake Street, Cairns QLD 4870

Also Bob Irwin, the late Steve Irwin’s father, is taking action and has established Mission Cassowary. The first priority is to establish temporary food stations and generate a driver awareness campaign to avoid a cassowary road toll in the post cyclone cleanup. They have already raised heaps of funds. They got us to broadcast the message of Mission Cassowary to all of our 4000 Bird Explorer Facebook friends.

To donate go to their website here:

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