Saturday, May 30, 2009

Joov the Fringe Dweller by Liz Gallie

Today I received this great story from my friend Liz Gallie. Her property at Bingil Bay is frequented by our endangered southern cassowaries. Liz regularly shares her observations with me I am sure you will agree that Liz’s cassowary photos are without equal.

Often when reading so many statistics relating to these amazing birds I worry they might become numbers on a page to me. When I get bogged down with the facts and figures (believe me a lot of the statistics aren’t very pretty) I sit down and have a coffee and think about Joov and other cassowaries Liz has shared with me in her emails and photos. I wonder how their day is going and what challenges they are facing but mostly I hope they are alive and well as with a total population of about 1200 birds every individual is vital if this species is to avoid extinction. Again thank you Liz and I invite you all to read about Joov the fringe dweller.

Joov the Fringe Dweller
by Liz Gallie

Joov will be four years of age in late July, is a cyclone Larry survivor, and has found a territory on the edge of urban development at Bingil Bay/Mission Beach.

You could call him a ‘fringe dweller’.
The magnificent equally photogenic female (Ms Cass), who is about nine years old, dominated Joov’s new territory until recently when she moved south over the hill to Garners Beach about one and a half kilometers away (as the cassowary walks that is).
The Garners Beach/Bingil Bay area in the northern part of Mission Beach a little further south of Ella Bay is a highly sought after area for cassowaries.

Garners Beach in particular has a low human and dog population and is not intersected by main through roads. Typical of Mission Beach, the complexity of landscapes contained in the small relatively natural area consists of headlands, sand dunes, beaches, hills, flat areas, wetlands, freshwater mangroves, littoral rainforest and coastal vine thickets.

The very high diversity of vegetation types produces a good all year round food supply for the high stable population of cassowaries. The rare opportunity still exists here for the endangered species to access the beach and to balance their diet with a little marine protein.

The low density developed Garners Beach is a very attractive place for cassowaries indeed and Ms Cass has been trying to push her way in over the years as her stature has grown.

A place was made vacant by the demise of the old matriarch who fell ill and was recently euthanized. The grand old female, ‘Mario’ aka ‘Betty’ is believed to have been at least 40 years of age and was known in the area as one of ‘Mrs Jorissen’s birds’.

A passionate conservationist, Mrs Jorissen bequeathed her 40 acre property to National Parks which now houses the Garners Beach Cassowary Rehabilitation Centre.

Ms Cass has apparently been playing havoc with the local cassowary hierarchy while establishing her place in her new territory, but she still keeps an eye on her old range.

It is obvious when she makes a periodic return, as Joov is a little less relaxed to say the least. An obvious pattern of movement is observed so they can both occupy the same area without confrontation.

Joov first turned up in September 07 as a very scraggy, flighty (excuse the pun) scared juvenile.

Since then his occupancy has been erratic but persistent, warily sharing it with Ms Cass and any other older and stronger visitors.

He has persevered, finding refuge when needed, in the junction of two creeks which meet not far from where they spill out onto the beach at Bingil Bay.

Joov’s shared territory extends up the hill to the south where many of the suburban blocks back onto deep gullies that carve away from Bicton Hill National Park. The remnant vegetation contained within and around the associated waterways provides the essential food resource and refuge for his survival.

A lot of the gully areas are degraded with encroaching weeds but there is some work being done to gradually rehabilitate and expand native vegetation.

For a while recently Joov stayed away to make way for a family that moved in.
The family was a dad with two chicks.
The dad is easily recognised by his ‘Bart Simpson’ style casque, short square wattles and gentle nature.
For 3 months the family cruised through daily and made themselves very at home.

Joov let them reign.

During a lean fruiting time, just after the white apple season finished, the family ventured too far into the open and were attacked by a dog spotting them from the beach. Luckily they survived the attack and were reunited but they disappeared back into unknown territory.

Shortly after, Joov started visiting once again.

It was just a week after the beach incident that Joov was himself chased by a different dog, a border collie, regularly seen running free around the adjacent suburban area.

Just part of living on the fringe.

There is a prolific exotic fruiting tree a couple of houses up the road in the more manicured part of the residential area. The pungent smell of decomposing fruit on the ground is an irresistible temptation. To access them is to run the gauntlet of avoiding the border collie who has become the neighbourhood ‘friend’ constantly roaming looking for a bit of fun, or watching out that the owner of the house across the road is not home with the big Alsatian and the little foxy which are wonderful watchdogs, even beyond their open gate fenced yard.

Everyday life is not easy for a cassowary at Mission Beach. Joov knows that only too well. Relying often on tiny fruits and needing to travel great distances to access enough food to sustain his large and growing frame, the journey is fraught with obstacles.
A barbed wire fence, although not a total barrier rips skin and can shred wattles and casques. Sometimes lethal in case of entanglement. Mesh fences place barriers to safe areas, food sources, and can separate families. Domestic dogs intimidate or threaten life and free movement. Being struck by vehicles poses a constant and major threat to survival as roads intersect food resources and safe refuge. Invasion of exotic plants replace and deny life sustaining native fruiting plants and trees and can block free movement.

Joov has noticeable scars of experience and on at least one occasion has taken the upper hand to show how big and scary he can be to an unsuspecting pooch.

Everyday he crosses the road and I listen with bated breath that he makes it safely. Every time I hear a dog bark I wonder if it is because they have spotted Joov. I wonder how peaceful it is at night with feral pigs uprooting the forest floor. I hope he doesn’t fall victim to a trap or a poisoned banana.

Joov will be four in July and will reach breeding age.
If he can dodge the threats we have introduced that are pushing his species to extinction, it is likely he will live another 30 plus years.

He would most likely outlive me.

If we are careful.

Please call The Community for Coastal and cassowary Conservation Inc (C4) on 61 7 4068 7197 or to find out how you can help.


  1. Amazing photography, made all the more potent by genuine sentiment and experiance. More people need to see this.

  2. Hi Paul, Thankyou for your comment,the most important thing I ommitted to add to my comment is that the Australian federal government can only act within their legislation if it can be proven an action will have a SIGNIFICANT IMPACT on a matter of national environmental significance. The Ella Bay cassowary population is isolated and currently living as in a wilderness area. The proposed development will spell the demise of the few birds that are supported by the remaining natural habitat. It is as simple as that!

  3. Great photos and narrative on a beautiful and intriguing bird. Hope conservations efforts are successful.

  4. Robert and Sue TideyMay 9, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    Truely beautiful and do hope they outlive us as that would be a success story

  5. Thanks for your comments Robert and Sue and Joov is certainly something special!
    Liz writes a decent story too.
    I have just finished adding a story about yet another tragic cassowary road death at Mission Beach so your words are especially poignant.

  6. Thank you Liz at Yips and Howls.
    Liz Gallie certainly knows how to use a camera and swing a do you come to think of it!
    I am long overdue to revisit your blog site too!
    Thanks again Liz for your kind wishes.


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