Scientists on cassowary trail
RESEARCH into the roaming behaviour of juvenile cassowaries has revealed they can travel long distances but always return home.
A University Queensland study by Dr Hamish Campbell has been studying the rehabilitation of juvenile cassowaries, where they make their home and how far they travel.
“Initially we tracked adult birds and now we’re focussing on the juvenile birds and have released five juvenile cassowaries so far,” he said.
“One male moved a range of 40 to 50km within about four to five weeks, we actually released him in a spot and collected the tag six months later and it was only 500m from where he was released.
“We thought he hadn’t moved far, but when we reviewed the data he had been up to Wujal Wujal on the Bloomfield River, skirted through some agricultural land and came back through the Cape Tribulation Range to the Donovan Range release site.”
The research revealed male cassowaries move farther than the females and they all show homing behaviour, coming back to the spot they were released.
“We need to do a lot more tagging of birds to understand if these patterns are prominent within the population and not just the behaviour of an individual,” Prof Campbell said.
“We are keen to understand the survivorship using technology to tag the birds to enable us to log the bird’s location over six months, which we hope to increase to a year to establish how quickly they establish home.”
The study is still continuing and scientists are getting ready for the next batch of rehabilitated juvenile cassowaries orphaned by Cyclone Yasi to reach 12-15 months when they can be tagged and released back into the wild to study their behaviour.
“We are planning on tagging them to understand better how these birds behave in the wild and provide information on them to improve the success of birds in their habitat,” Prof Campbell said.
“They are really difficult birds to tag, it’s been quite a complex process developing procedures and technology and putting it all together.
“Putting the device on cassowaries and releasing them somewhere in the Daintree and hope to find them again six months later is not easy.”
On the move: an adult female with the Gps-based tracking device