The southern cassowary is often heard before it can be seen. These giant, flightless birds are descendents of carnivorous dinosaurs and their deep rumblings are famed throughout northern Queensland. But the future of these threatened prehistoric birds became even more uncertain this month with the announcement of the imminent closure of Garners Beach Cassowary Rehabilitation Centre.
The centre, in Mission Beach, north of Townsville, officially opened in 2001, aiming to support the highest density cassowary population in Australia. The rehabilitation centre treated orphaned chicks as well as injured adults.
Now the centre will close once its three remaining patients are ready for release. It has already stopped taking in wounded cassowaries.
Last year, the Queensland government handed responsibility for the centre to environmental group Rainforest Rescue, but that partnership has ended because of funding problems. Now, the Queensland Environment Department has made the decision to close the centre.
Dr Graham Lauridsen, a veterinarian and cassowary expert, says he’s been told by the department ‘that if I’m unable to treat the bird at the roadside and let it go again, then my only other alternative at this point in time is to euthanase those birds’.
‘At this point in time, sick birds and injured birds really have no place to go,’ says Laurisden, adding that if the centre is shut down, it will be hard to get it up and running again.