Wednesday, December 23, 2009

C4 identifies major new road kill threat to Mission Beach Cassowaries

Within the latter part of a recent post Another Mission Beach Cassowary killed by a car at Mission Beach 20.12.2009, the recent construction of a bikeway at Mission beach was examined.
This issue has also been examined within The Inconvenient Cassowary ...C4 Press Release another recent blog story.

The new bikeway is interfering with the crossing of this road by Mission Beach’s endangered Southern Cassowaries. This is a situation which no one seems to want to take responsibility for or correct at this stage (including our Cassowary Coast Regional Council).

Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation (C4) are extremely concerned regarding recent incidents at this location and are working hard to try to minimize the road strike threat to this federally endangered bird at this popular crossing site.

Today I received the following document and wish to share it with you.

Cheers Russ

Bikeway/walkway (update) Monday 21st Dec

Email Received;

“Sue and I were on our way back from Tully late this afternoon when we encountered a Cassowary trying to cross the road just south of Mission Circle on the Wongaling straight. We came to a stop and waited for the bird to be clear of the road. What happened next was very disturbing. The Cassowary seemed intent on going east towards the beach but when it came to the bike path the bird could go no further. Because the pathway has been raised to almost the height of the road (near the new bridge), the slope on the edge of the bikeway is now too much for the Cassowary to cross. Suddenly the Cassowary rounded up and darted back across the road to the west, the bird seemed very confused”.
“This is a tragic situation that has been allowed to develop, what we saw today has come not much more than twenty four hours after another road death in almost the same place. It's all very well to have a bike path, which in essence is a good thing but when the construction is almost akin to another lane for vehicular traffic and obviously not Cassowary friendly, I think we have to ask serious questions about Council's planning”.

“The Cassowary corridor problem along the Wongaling straight must be well known to Council, Lot 66 and the Thompson developments are nearby. Sadly it appears that the present construction of the bikeway may well be another nail in the Cassowary coffin - as we often say at C4 "death by a thousand cuts".”
Council Parks Manager Paul Devine, Terrain Local Area Planning officer Tony O'Malley and C4 met at this site on Cassowary Drive on the 18th Dec to discuss C4’s concerns about the impact the bikeway design would have on the cassowary crossing. Paul said that if a crossing site was identified, works could be carried out to make it more ‘cassowary friendly’. He said it could only happen along a limited section of 20 or 30 metres.

This would mean Garrett Corridor would be even more fragmented and bottlenecked to a maximum of 30 metres at this point. It is already interrupted with fencing and road cuttings. Cassowaries are influenced by many factors in their movement across the landscape apart from the major impact of traffic. It is also in a low laying area as are all the coastal habitat connectivity points and any design to genuinely accommodate the safe crossing of the birds would require a lot of thought and in this case involve drainage infrastructure.
Click on image for larger view.

This is a very good example of how development is happening at Mission Beach without consideration of our natural values. Retro fitting more often than not ends up in a compromise and that compromise is likely to contribute to the ongoing and increasing irreversible threats to the cassowary.

We have spoken to Peter MacNamara this morning who is from the corridor management section of Main Roads. He said he would talk to the Council to see what can be done. C4 has suggested a temporary extension of the 60km/h zone to the cutting past Mission
Circle. It is mandatory for hazards on road systems to have warning signs and/or traffic calming measures. A disoriented cassowary forced into a stressed situation on the road because of changed conditions would certainly qualify as a road hazard and on the other hand I am sure DEWHA would be concerned about any development that has a significant impact on a threatened species.

It can be anticipated that there will be an increased and hurried flow of traffic along all roads at Mission Beach particularly Cassowary Drive, coming up to, and over the holiday period.

Three/maybe/four adult cassowaries, one with 4 chicks trying to cross along a 300 metre section of a busy road has an inevitable consequence. It is just a matter of time and which one will be first.

Now that we are aware of a serious problem who will take responsibility and action? C4 has designed, and is working with QPWS to install temporary signs to help alert drivers to the increased risk for cassowaries attempting to cross on this already high risk 80 km/h stretch of road.
We hope that the Mains Roads Department has been able to sort something out with the Council and that the bird on the plate covered in gravy is not the only bird being thought about in a few days time.

How inconvenient for this to be happening at this time of year!


  1. I have put the cadastral map of the crossing area at . As you can see, the area is all freehold and is zoned Urban, meaning it is not protected by the Vegetation Management Act. The block to the south of the corridor, the old Lot 502, has been subdivided and is being built up now. All this area will be subdivided one day and the Conservation Reserve area and wetlands will be completely cut off. The hill slopes to the west have no water in dry times like this December 2009.

  2. Thanks Dave, nice work! It's well worth a look at your map as it drives home the fact that this wetland which is being utilised by Mission Beach cassowaries is doomed to being cut off and isolated. Habitat fragmentation is one of the major threats facing our endangered southern cassowaries yet as I type this it's happening at this site and unfortunately the powers that be seem to lack the genuine will to stop it.


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