Monday, December 21, 2009

Another Mission Beach Cassowary killed by a car at Mission Beach 20.12.2009

Yesterday morning while I was examining the multitude of cassowary tracks that cross the Ella Bay Road, the noble bird was being killed by a vehicle strike at nearby Mission Beach.
I received the following message from cassowary conservation groupC4.

Sad day today as another adult cassowary is killed on Mission Beach roads. With the Christmas holidays fast approaching and no better road management strategy than a small 'recent crossing' sign in an 80 kph area we can only hold our breath in hope that there are no more fatalities. Media release will follow as more details come in.

I do not have a full media release yet but I promise you I will post it on this blog within the next 24 hours.

This bird was slaughtered because it had no choice but to cross a road to access food resources and habitat within its own territory.

Without minimizing the tragic loss of this endangered species for the Mission Beach community I must say the loss really hit me at a personal level.

Major roads through cassowary habitat are bad news and a major reason for my strong objections to the proposed expansion of the Ella Bay Road which are being demanded by property developer, Ella Bay Pty Ltd.

I have examined this subject many times in these posts:
All up there are 16 cassowary blog stories That you may find interesting and informative.

Let’s return to the tragic situation at Mission Beach as I have lots more to tell you about the situation there.

Cassowary conservation group c4 also sent the following map which displays the location of yesterday’s death with a large green dot.
A few days ago on the 15 December 2009 I received another map from C4 spokesperson Liz Gallie

On this map c4 has published photographs of some of the known cassowaries in this area and also plotted some areas these endangered Cassowaries are using. It is far from comprehensive as there’s much more data to be added, but it is a brilliant start.

The map has been designed as a tool to help groups such as the Cassowary Coast Regional Council and State/Federal government representatives understand the complex patterns of habitat usage by Mission Beach’s cassowaries.
There was a story that came with this map and here it is but first a short note from C4 spokesperson Liz Gallie!
These concerns were foreseen and voiced to relevant authorities at the outset of the development and have been ongoing. So far there hasn't been an accident caused by the disruption and block of movement. After four days the concrete must be set enough that the nets can be taken down as soon as possible. The track has left the crossing area with a sharp decline so hopefully a meeting on Friday between CCRC Parks Manager Devine, Mission Beach Local Area Planning officer Tony O'Malley and C4 can brainstorm ways to accommodate a more cassowary specific and friendly crossing.

Thank You Liz and here is the full story.

Avoiding impacts on the free and safe movement of cassowaries in the Mission Beach landscape while development takes place.

15th Dec 09 Paper prepared by C4 to distribute at CCRC Town Planning Scheme meeting.
The photo above is of a very large female ‘Cassie’ thought to be about seventeen years of age and also ‘Charlie” (crossing the road) who is about twelve years old.

They both cross Cassowary Drive on a daily basis and use the same crossing point. They have been crossing at this point all their lives and will continue to attempt to do so. They are one of two pairs of birds known to move from the World Heritage area through Garrett Corridor to the Wongaling Creek coastal lowland and back.

The new bikeway/walkway initially had hazard nets put up where the bridge work was being carried out and which was exactly where the birds cross. For the past few days while concreting of the pathway was being done, the hazard net stretches all the way from the road cutting to the driveway of a fenced private property. If the birds attempt to cross they will end up on the road in the cutting to the north or be funneled into a fenced property. Either way they are being forced into a very high risk situation on a busy road. If they are inhibited or denied crossing they will not be able to access a large portion of their daily foraging range and will be competing with the other birds in a more confined space which will expose them to the risk of territorial confrontation.

When works such as this are being carried out at Mission Beach perhaps there can be put in place a policy to first consider how it will impact on the cassowaries in that area and put in place measures to avoid negative consequences. This would demonstrate the political will on a local level to be active in helping to ensure the safety and survival of the valued population of the adopted icon of our region.

Now is the part where I cut in and do the narrator thing!

The above information was put together by C4 to supply to a CCRC town planning scheme meeting and on the way to this very same meeting the following incident was recorded by C4 representatives!

As you will read C4’s earlier concerns contained an element of prophecy and were obviously well founded……now back to the story!

On the way to CCRC Town Planning meeting.

12.15pm Tuesday 15th Dec

A bird paced up and down on the Mission Circle side of the road opposite the hazard fencing in place for the bikeway/ walkway currently under construction. It was visibly confused and eventually walked north up against the vegetation line until it could see an opportunity to cross.For the cassowary it would not be an option to simply go back to where it came from. It would continue to try to access the coastal lowland as it does every day at the same place.

It stepped up from a verge and crossed the road where visibility is impaired for southbound motorists. A worker alerted the traffic but the Coca-cola truck only slowed slightly and as it passed, sounded a loud horn which flustered the bird and sent it running into the bush.
The cassowary had already crossed the road. The action by the truck driver could have resulted in an erratic response from the bird and sent it back onto the road.

It had obviously been trying to cross for some time as some people already seated at the Town Planning meeting when we arrived had observed it earlier.

The situation was briefly discussed at the meeting. Technology is available that can be programmed to identify shapes and movement that can be used to trigger flashing lights.

This is a well known cassowary crossing point on an increasingly busy road. With signage approaching a section of perhaps 100 meters with road markings and lights, this could well be a solution to allow the Garrett Corridor to be maintained as a safe area for the families of cassowaries that need to cross regularly.

It could serve to show the state and federal governments we are serious about finding solutions to overcome the threats to cassowary preservation and may make it easier to obtain funding to put into projects such as this.

Local crossing points would be easily identified through QPW ’recent sighting’ sign locations and C4 sightings records and cassowary expert Les Moore records.

C4 is meeting on site with CCRC Parks Manager Paul Devine and Terrain Local Area Planning Officer Tony O’Malley to discuss ways of incorporating measures into the bikeway/walkway that will better recognise and facilitate the crossing.

How can we achieve a long term positive result to accommodate the cassowary in the landscape of a developing area?

Input is welcome for suggestions on how to solve the foreseeable problems such as this and initiate some action.

Thank you Liz Gallie and C4 for sharing this recent news with all of us and let’s return to the issue of cassowary road fatalities.

The cassowary road toll at Mission Beach over the last few weeks is tragic.

Of course I have blogged about a recent hit run cassowary killing on 16 November 2009 and you can read about this here and here.

With this recent fatality on 20 December 2009 that makes 2 adult cassowaries killed at Mission Beach in a handful of weeks without even considering those deaths that aren’t reported.

Mission beach is a prime example of what happens when roads are pushed through known cassowary habitat. The research is available and we know the risks yet the killings go on and on.

Cassowaries and roads don’t mix. If you fence the roads you isolate birds from their essential food resources and if they cross they will be killed eventually. Death by habitat fragmentation or by road it still adds up to the same thing.

It amazes me that considering recent cassowary road deaths, property developers like Ella Bay Pty Ltd are still demanding the right to push new roads and enlarge existing roads through known cassowary habitat (all of which is in or adjacent to listed World Heritage property).

When will we learn and change or are our decision makers content to sit back and watch this endangered bird slide into oblivion. C4 must sometimes feel like Cassandra and I hope with all my heart this is not the case.

I will leave you with photos of our regions two latest victims.
Sadly the Ellabayforever blog is starting to look like a cassowary morgue.

This is not a future we want for Mission Beach or Ella Bay.



  1. Perhaps the well-monied developers could be asked (made?) to fund the installation of the flashing lights?
    Perhaps the Government could squeeze tax dollars for this?
    Perhaps caring people could set up a fund for this, or some other, workable project?
    Certainly, I would be prepared to contribute should this be the only solution.
    It may take a human fatality to force any action. And, given the size of these birds, a collision with a small vehicle could quite easily result in human injury or death.

    I do sometimes wonder about the efficacy of environmental impact studies...

  2. Thank you moreidlethoughts. You have raised some very valid points. I think a primary issue is not to place or enlarge roads through cassowary habitat. Governments must learn from what is happening at Mission Beach and use that knowledge to modify future development. Unfortunately at Mission Beach they must work at correcting errors from the past which is a harder road to travel.
    I gave up on environmental Impact Studies when I noted BAAM (Ella Bay's EIS people) could not tell the difference between Platcerium hillii and Platycerium superbum something my grandma could do in her sleep. Then there was the fact they could only find 5 species of fish on the massive site at Ella Bay that is riddled with aquatic habitat...I have seen more than that in the stream next to their front gate!

  3. This makes me so sad, mad and grieved. Poor beautiful cassowary. I hope he didn't suffer.


  4. Thank you so much for your comments Amanda.I too hope it was a quick death... such a sad and wasteful loss of a magnificent keystone species. It annoys me no end when I see companies like Ella Bay Pty Ltd demanding the right to punch similar roads through high value World Heritage Cassowary habitat and National Parks.Will we ever learn.
    I want to be writing stories about cassowaries being removed from the endangered species list in the future not documenting their decline as I am at the moment.


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