Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mangoes and Cassowaries on the Ella Bay Road - food for thought!

Alongside the Ella Bay Road you will see many Mango trees Mangifera indica.
Of course they are not native to Australia and were probably planted along the road by local people years ago as a low maintenance seasonal source of fresh fruit.

Some of these mango trees are huge and would be many decades old.
There are also many smaller trees along the Ella bay Road too.
I have been watching the fruit on these roadside trees mature over the past few months. I am not alone as these trees are a favorite with Ella Bay’s endangered southern cassowaries who have also been watching and waiting. By mid October the mangoes were starting to fatten on the trees.
And of course some of them were falling onto the ground, on and along the road.

I wonder if Ella Bay’s endangered southern cassowaries ever look up and stare at the endangered spectacled flying foxes Pteropus conspicillatus, who also share these sweet fruit, and curse their own inability to fly up and get the best of the crop?
Ella Bay Pty Ltd wants to install a 3 km fence along the Ella Bay Road.

Ella Bay Pty Ltd also wants to widen the Ella Bay Road.

Ultimately this would mean that this important seasonal cassowary food source (mangoes) would be bulldozed or, just as bad, fenced off from foraging cassowaries.

It amazes me that the proponent wants to fence off this road when research has shown that fencing is an inappropriate way of managing wild cassowaries. Only today I was reading a report concerning cassowaries and the roads at Mission Beach (WinWord doc) which states;

‘It is preferred to shy away from the use of fencing because it can bail up other fauna and is a maintenance issue’.

In the same report Terrain the natural resource management body for the Wet Tropics state;

‘We should endeavour to ensure that future development at Mission Beach does not increase motor traffic through habitat because traffic is an identified threat to cassowary survival and we now know that the cost of managing traffic impacts on cassowaries is very high’.

On a broader scale we should ensure that future development anywhere (yes that includes Ella Bay) does not increase motor traffic through cassowary habitat.

Increasing the population at Ella Bay from less than 10 people to almost 5000 will increase traffic exponentially to the detriment of all the wildlife that call this area home, including the endangered southern cassowary.

Getting back to fencing, cassowary conservation group C4 has totally rejected fencing as a means of managing wild cassowaries. This page from a recent C4 brochure (PDF) makes this very clear.
Click on image to enlarge.

Cassowaries use this road for normal socializing and foraging purposes. The proponent’s own environment consultants BAAM stated in their 2008 fauna survey that;

“Southern Cassowary scats show that this species utilised the road for movement during the survey period”.

I have recorded many important seasonal cassowary fruits along this road, not just mangoes. I have blogged about them in Cassowary Fruits along the Ella Bay Road. For more information on the Ella Bay Road you can check out another story I did a while back titled A road to Cassowary extinction.

Oh there’s also Entrapment and Satori's 'innovative' cassowary gate exposed as ineffective Canadian deer gate! if you’re interested in fences and gates!

What’s that you ask??

How do you know that cassowaries are coming onto this road and eating this seasonal mango food source as you are suggesting Russell??

Glad you asked!

The proof is in the cassowary scat that can be found around the Ella Bay Road.

You don’t need a degree in botany to recognise a cassowary poo full of mango seed when you see it!
And yes I did wash my hands afterwards!

This is yet another reason why fencing /widening this road is totally inappropriate. To remove or isolate a seasonal food resource that belongs to Ella Bay’s endangered southern cassowaries is not only undesirable it is totally unethical in my opinion.

I hope you enjoyed this story as much as Ella Bay’s cassowaries are enjoying this year’s mango crop along the Ella Bay Road.

Cheers Russ

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