Adding to the toll, another cassowary was killed on the Tully Gorge Road yesterday 26th July. The driver of the vehicle did not stop.
Photos of the dead adult male left on the side of the road were posted on a facebook page by a local tourism operator who discovered the disturbing scene.
1. Rainforest Rescue have withdrawn their financial support from Garners Beach Rehab Centre. Threatened species have a duty of care of the 3 juvenile birds in the centre and will pay for their care and release (hopefully later in the year)
2. Threatened species have no further funding for Cassowary rehabilitation and therefore no further cassowaries will be allowed to be placed in the facility.
3. Wildlife Unit have only one ranger with Cassowary experience and he is based in Innisfail. He is no longer able to do extra hours and is therefore unable to respond to any out of hours cassowary incidents.
4. Any birds that are sick, injured or orphaned will be unable to be placed in the rehab centre (even overnight) so any assessments done on the roadside or forest will have to determine if the bird will be able to survive with minimal intervention otherwise it will need to be euthanized (their words – not mine). They have said they may be able to place them in zoo’s, if zoo’s are available. I explained that on many occasions we have admitted birds to the centre for short periods before being able to release them again as they have either gained sufficient strength and or recovered from their injuries. An example of this occurred just 2 months ago.
5. Point 4 will include orphaned chicks if an immediate solution – i.e. zoo, is unable to take them that day. They asked if my clinic had facilities to hold onto birds until another solution could be reached. My short answer is – only if they are very small.
6. As ranger staff are not available afterhours (apparently the staff have been breaking the rules for many years by responding to call outs out of hours) then us as vets and members of the public will be relied upon to render assistance. This will no doubt include many untrained but well meaning Wildlife carers wanting to bundle birds in the back of their vehicles.
7. Dead birds can be post mortemed at the Veterinarians expense as Wildlife Unit will no longer pay for this. As they don’t have any staff available they will be very unlikely to be bringing birds in to us for this purpose anyway. i.e. bird was hit and killed on Tully Gorge road yesterday, they rang me today to tell me if I wanted to drive out and find it then I could do a post mortem on it if I wanted.
A lot more was said at the meeting but this is the summarized version. I have spoken to 2 local media groups over the weekend and I also spoke to our local member of parliament when I ran into him at the Tully Show.
The reason for the above decision is based purely on a financial decision within the department and the fact that the department would rather private or community groups to take on the role that they have been doing for the last 10 to 15 years. I pointed out to them that an exception to this is the Moggill Koala hospital and the 5 million dollars in funding that Koala’s received from the State Government last year. Obviously these managers are doing the best they can with the directives they are being given so pressure must be placed on the people above them, i.e. government.
Part of EHP obligations under the Cassowary Recovery Plan is to provide care, rehab etc for these birds. I mentioned this and the answer given was that they would be in communication with the Federal department to explain the decision.
There are many ramifications to go through based on the above and I don’t have the time to explain them all here other than to say Veterinarians are going to be placed in a very difficult place through no fault of their own and members of the public will become extremely upset with possible outcomes of euthanizing small chicks a real possibility.
I also raised the issue of no further cassowary incident reports coming through from the department from much earlier in the year – explained that groups are trying to do mapping work based on this data – no reason why they aren’t coming through was given.
2 birds have died in the Mossman region in the last few months. 1 in the Mourilyan area and as I mentioned one yesterday west of Tully.
Dr Graham Lauridsen.