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Cassowary film premieres in Coen

Story by Juliana Foxlee

A documentary about Cape York cassowaries premiered in Coen in October

The film Kutini (a local Indigenous word for cassowary) was produced as part of cassowary research project undertaken by Kalan Enterprises, the CSIRO, the Wet Tropics Management Authority with the support of Cape York NRM and Coen Campus.

Kalan Enterprises Director Naomi Hobson said the film was designed to demonstrate the groundbreaking cassowary research work on the McIlwraith Range led by Traditional Owner land managers, the CSIRO and Kalan Enterprises.

‘The aim of the film is to raise awareness about cassowaries living in our region and help educate children and the community about the significance of cassowaries,’ Ms Hobson said.

‘We love cassowaries, they’re such a beautiful and mysterious bird. They are so important culturally too; there are some family groups that believe the cassowary formed the landscape. We are so proud that our Kalan Rangers designed this research work and joined up with CSIRO to establish an ongoing research program so we can understand as much as possible about the McIlwraith cassowary.’

The documentary was broadcast at Coen Campus. Principal Monica Hurrell said the project was an exciting opportunity to learn more about the elusive McIlwraith cassowary from rainforests east of Coen. ‘The Cassowary just so happens to be one of our house names for sports days, alongside the Emus,’ Ms Hurrell said.

‘Many of our students are culturally connected to the cassowary or have family ties to the rainforest in which the cassowary lives. Ecologically, the cassowary needs the rainforest as much as the rainforest needs the cassowary. There is an important and delicate symbiotic relationship between the two – a very important thing for our students to understand.

‘Thanks to Kalan Enterprises, the CSIRO and Cape York NRM, our students are well informed about the cassowary’s cultural and ecological significance. The film premiere and the BBQ afterwards encouraged informal discussions between students, parents and specialists in the field. Thank you to all involved - our students have appreciated the wonderful and rare opportunity to be involved in this project.’

CSIRO researchers Matt Bradford and David Westcott said the film was a great way to wrap up the Cape York Cassowaries – Traditional Owners Recording Populations and Addressing Threats to Habitat project, which allowed the cassowary to be explicitly considered in the planning of land management programs.

‘Kalan Enterprises approached CSIRO, which has extensive experience in cassowary survey in the Queensland’s Wet Tropics, following concern about current and future threats to the cassowary. Together, we walked through much of the rainforest on the McIlwraith Range during numerous surveys,’ Mr Bradford said.

‘There appears to be a healthy population of cassowaries in the area as we saw nine individuals, including three juveniles, as well as plenty of fresh droppings and footprints. The rainforest is also in good health.

‘But we cannot be complacent, as the cassowary is still of conservation concern across its range in Queensland. While weeds and habitat loss are seen as future threats, the traditional owners consider feral pigs and cattle to pose the most immediate threat to the cassowary on their land.’

Cape York NRM Operations Manager Peta-Marie Standley said Kutini would help focus attention on the importance of Cape York cassowaries. ‘Cassowaries are iconic species in the Far North’, she said.

‘While cassowaries are well known in the Wet Tropics, they also inhabit sections of Cape York. We have lots to learn about the habitat and health of the Cape York cassowary population and will be working with Traditional Owners over the next few months to gather traditional ecological knowledge about Cape York cassowaries as part a new cassowary project.’

This project is funded through the Australian Government Threatened Species Recovery Fund in partnership with Wet Tropics Management Authority, CSIRO, Kalan Enterprises, the Rainforest Trust - Australia and Cape York NRM.


Cassowary Film premieres in Coen