As soon as we left the city of Cairns at the start of our Australian adventure, we started to come across this sign. I perhaps ought to own up here that, until this point, I had never even heard of a ‘cassowarie’, let alone seen one!
We were heading for the Danetree Rainforest, where these elusive birds lurk in the undergrowth. Everyone told us that we would be lucky to actually see one, as they are very shy creatures and will disappear into the forest at the first sight of humans.
On our second day in the forest, we decided to take part in an ‘Ocean Safari” to go snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, (more news of this to follow.) In order to meet our boat we had to be on the road early in the morning and I think we were the first vehicle to travel along this particular stretch of road that morning.
Suddenly, about 100 metres ahead of us, ambling across the road, without a care in the world, was a real, live cassowarie! I braked gently and rolled to a halt very close to the huge creature, only to find its mate grazing on the other side of the road. Two cassowaries! How exciting was that?
Quick! Where’s the camera? It’s not often you get the chance to photograph a cassowarie from such close quarters, let alone two!
Aaaaagh! The camera was in the boot of the car, (or in the ‘trunk’ for my American readers, or ‘im Kofferraum’ for my German friends. If you are my reader in Mongolia or Palestine or Romania, you’re on your own!) There was no way that I was going to get out of the car to retrieve my camera. Linda also showed no great enthusiasm for venturing out of the safety of our vehicle, despite my entreaties. I tried to point out that my eventual blog entry would be very much enhanced by some original close-up photos, taken in the early morning sunshine, but she was not to be moved.
So, dear reader, on this occasion, you’ll just have to take my word for the fact that we were within pecking distance of these two avian monsters.
They were quite beautiful creatures, but they looked rather more grumpy that I would have liked. We kept our windows well and truly closed until the two birds lost interest in us and wandered away.
Australia is very keen to save the cassowarie, which, thanks to the conflict between housing development and wildlife preservation, is close to extinction.
The cassowarie is about the size of a small emu. You wouldn’t want to run into one in your car/
Looking on the bright side, although cassowarie numbers in Australia are very low, it could be that Papua New Guinea could help. A couple of million years ago, Papua New Guinea and Australia were part of the same land-mass and guess what? PNG also has cassowaries!
Of course, in PNG, no-one will really know how many birds still survive in the wild and there is no campaign to preserve them, but an indication that they are considered part of Papua New Guinean culture is the fact that the bird appears on one of the PNG coins, and that cassowarie feathers are a prized component of many traditional head-dresses.
And finally, the cruelest sign that we saw.