Endangered Birds Pushing Their Luck

cassowary / eddie safarikVisitor ... Jan Shang keeps a close watch on a visiting cassowary as she attends to chores. Picture: Eddie Safarik

THEY have borne Cyclone Larry and weeks of torrential rain, but now the luckless residents of Innisfail face a new dilemma, a posse of hungry marauding cassowaries.

The critically endangered and famously testy flightless bird, known for its ability to disembowel humans with its razor-sharp claws, is running amok through the backyards and suburban streets of north Queensland in search of food.

The birds are believed to have left rainforest areas after much of the fruit-bearing plants they depend on were knocked down by Larry's 260km/h winds.

It is expected to be months before the birds' food sources begin to replenish.

Meanwhile, roaming cassowaries are reported to have chased several residents through town. One recently fell into a backyard swimming pool and had to be rescued.

The people of Innisfail and surrounds have now been warned not to feed the birds.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife rangers have set up food stations throughout the cyclone-affected region to entice cassowaries back into the forests and save them from being hit by cars or chased by dogs. At least six cassowaries have died in the Mission Beach region, south of Innisfail, since the cyclone, all struck by cars.

The birds are vital to the survival of the World Heritage-listed wet tropics rainforest because they are the only animals capable of distributing the seeds of more than 70 species of trees whose fruit is too large for any other forest-dwelling animal to eat and thus relocate.

There are less than 1200 cassowaries left in Australia.

Read the rest of the story here and be sure to check out the gallery of other deadly animals in the region.