Recently I received a letter from Liz Gallie a member of cassowary conservation group C4. It highlighted the dangers posed to endangered southern cassowaries by fences around urban developments.
This is of particular interest to me as developer Satori is suggesting within their Ella Bay proposal that roadside fencing be established to funnel cassowaries toward road crossing points. I strongly oppose this as it may funnel birds from neighbouring territories into the same area with the potential for territorial fighting. Fencing could isolate cassowaries from important seasonal foods such as white apples Syzygium forte which grow to the East of the Ella Bay access road. Fencing can also physically separate adults and juveniles leading to stress, injury or death.
As the following letter and images clearly illustrate fencing is no friend to our cassowaries and is not the solution to keeping them safe. Thankyou Liz, Karen and C4 and with no further words from me here’s the story ...
5 May 2009
To whom it may concern,
On Wednesday 4th June the Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation Inc (C4) was notified about some distressed cassowaries trapped within the fenced area of a residential subdivision.
The male and chicks are seen often by the site contractor entering where the fence ends. If there is a confrontation between these territorial birds within a confined space, escape is not easy or possible. The gate was eventually opened to let them back through.
They had been there for some time, were extremely distressed and the parent was continually running his beak along the fence looking for a way through.
Their beaks are very soft and this behaviour has been known to rip their beaks off.
He would have damaged himself that day.
The contractor on site observes regular entrapment of this family unit and also a female.The cassowaries in these photos have been utilising this area all their lives. They will continue to do so. If the whole area is not gated there will be more entrapment. If the area is fully gated, which there is no intention for so far the birds will be directed onto busy roads.
Earlier the ‘family’ was crossing at a regular crossing point with poor traffic visibility, when a truck loaded with shingle almost hit them. It did not slow down while in the passing lane and the birds narrowly escaped becoming another cassowary road fatality. Roadkill is the biggest threat to cassowaries after habitat loss. (Cassowary Recovery Plan).
There have been 55 known road deaths at Mission Beach since 1994. (QPW records) A road upgrade associated with this development has served to speed up the traffic in a known cassowary crossing area
It was reported by the QPW ranger who attended that a commercial business nearby often have to stop birds from entering their fenced area.
At another residential development a fence now directs the birds onto a busy main road.
The local, state and commonwealth conditions for development approvals are supposedly protecting the endangered species but with the introduction of fencing, dogs, traffic and a lot more people, there is a greatly increased risk.
C4 has been lobbying all levels of government for 20 years in an effort to raise awareness of the plight and imminent extinction of the endangered cassowary at Mission Beach.
Recent escalation in development has added yet another threat to the survival of this endangered species. We now have to add “The Introduction of Fences” to our long list of unresolved threats.
The approving authorities have got it terribly wrong. The current approach is failing. The cassowaries are on the wrong side of the fence.
What is going to be done about the endangered cassowary at Mission Beach?
We are urgently calling upon all agencies at all levels to collaborate in devising immediate solutions to ensuring that the cassowary survives at Mission Beach. If nothing else, it is simply Mission Beach’s unique long-term eco tourism potential we are in danger of losing.
C4 (Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation Inc)