This species is believed to have undergone a rapid decline in the last three generations (44 years) in Australia, and declines of a similar magnitude elsewhere in its range are possible, with local extirpations reported from parts of New Guinea. It is therefore classified as Vulnerable. However, the decline in Australia resulted from an extraordinary rate of habitat destruction which has virtually ceased. Further information from New Guinea may indicate that the species would be better listed as Near Threatened if hunting and high-impact industrial logging does not increase in the large areas of existing habitat there.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 1994. The taxonomy and species of birds of Australia and its territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union, Melbourne.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Distribution and populationCasuarius casuarius
180 cm. Very large, black ratite. Adult black with bright blue neck. Red on lower nape. Red double wattle hanging from foreneck. Similar spp. Larger than Dwarf Cassowary C. bennetti and adult has high casque and double red wattle. Voice Booming display call and various rumblings and hissings, usually given when disturbed. Chicks make frequent, high pitched and frequency modulated whistles as contact calls to male. Hints Generally elusive in dense forest, it is most easily seen in Australia alongside certain roads and lodges.
is found in New Guinea (Papua, formerly Irian Jaya, Indonesia
and Papua New Guinea
), including the islands of Seram (where probably introduced) and Aru, and north-eastern Australia
. It occurs throughout the lowlands of New Guinea except for the northern watershed from the Vogelkop to the Huon Peninsula (Coates 1985, Beehler et al.
. In Papua and adjacent islands, its status is unclear, but it may be more common than in Papua New Guinea. In Papua New Guinea, it has declined, and is now absent in some locations, including remote areas (Coates 1985, K. D. Bishop in litt.
. In Australia, there are 3 subpopulations in Queensland. The southern and largest population ranges from the Paluma Range north of Townsville to Mt Amos. Two populations occur further north on Cape York Peninsula: one in the McIlwraith Range and north to the Pascoe River, the other in the Jardine River National Park and Heathland Resources Reserve (Kofron and Chapman 2006)
. The Australian population was estimated to number c. 2,500 birds in 2010, but it is declining (Garnett et al.
. Population justification
No data are available for New Guinea. Garnett et al.
(2011) estimated the Australian population to number 2,500 mature individuals. As such, the total population is best placed in the band 10,000-19,999 individuals, equating to 6,667-13,333 mature individuals, rounded here to 6,000-15,000 mature individuals.Trend justification
The species is suspected to be declining rapidly overall, based on the belief that it has suffered a rapid decline in Australia during the last three generations (Garnett et al.
It is a solitary and sedentary inhabitant of rainforest, occasionally using adjacent savannah forests, mangroves and fruit plantations. Its diet largely comprises fallen fruit, although it is fairly undiscriminating (Garnett et al.
. It ranges between 0 m and at least 500 m in Papua New Guinea (Johnson et al
, and has been recorded up to 1,400 m in Australia.Threats
In Australia, it was historically threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation. In Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, the species is heavily hunted, captured and traded close to populated areas, being of high cultural importance, and constituting a major food source for subsistence communities (Coates 1985, Beehler et al.
1986, K. D. Bishop in litt.
. This hunting and trade is not sustainable in many areas and has led to its extirpation from some sites, as the species is traded at a sub-national level to supply markets in more densely populated areas (Johnson et al
. Increasing human populations and the spread of shotguns used for hunting exacerbate hunting pressure on the species. However, although birds appear to be more common in unpopulated areas (Beehler et al.
1994, Burrows 1995)
, they can apparently survive in some hunted areas (Beehler 1985), probably those where traditional hunting techniques predominate. Industrial logging is threatening large areas of suitable habitat in New Guinea, with unknown but potentially significant impact on the species, and clearance for oil-palm plantations is a significant but unquantified threat. Cyclones are considered a threat to the species in Australia, with cyclones severely affecting Cassowary habitat in 2006 and 2011. In 2006, Cyclone Larry hit Queensland, affecting fruit production in tropical rain forests and causing the death of some cassowaries, either directly or as a result of starvation and exposure to other threats following the cyclone. In addition, following the cyclone some individuals could have ventured beyond forest fragments and may have suffered higher mortality through collisions with motor vehicles or attacks by dogs (L. A. Moore & N. J. Moore unpub. data to Bellingham 2008). Increased susceptibility to disease (e.g. tuberculosis) following such events may pose a threat to the species (Cooper 2008), although this is yet to be confirmed. Climate change could increase the severity of cyclones in the future. It should be noted, however, that even large cyclones have a severe effect on only a small proportion of cassowary habitat. Conservation actions underway
A recovery plan for the species in Australia was published in 2002 (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service 2002) and updated in 2007 (Latch 2007). In Australia, programmes have been aimed at community education, localised habitat management, protection and revegetation, management plans for populations and high-risk individuals, surveys, survey and translocation methods, and habitat use. Temporary feeding stations have been installed in damaged areas following cyclones in Australia. Most remaining habitat is within protected areas (Westcott 1999, D. Westcott in litt.
1999, Garnett et al.
2011). A village based survey has been conducted in Papua New Guinea investigating sustainability of wildlife capture and trade (Johnson et al
. 2004). Conservation actions proposedQuantify forest loss in New Guinea. Determine population densities, sizes and demographic trends throughout its range. In Indonesia and Papua New Guinea: Monitor populations in protected areas. Quantify the effects of hunting and logging. Promote community-based hunting restrictions. In Australia: Revise monitoring techniques and monitor key sites. Research population dynamics. Research impact of cyclones, dogs, traffic, disease and fragmentation on persistence of small populations and on survivorship and demography. Prevent habitat clearance. Minimise cassowary road deaths and dog attacks, and assess impact of pigs. Undertake dog and pig control areas of in dense populations (Garnett et al. 2011). Investigate the feasibility and merits and, if appropriate, implement a translocation plan as part of rescue, rehabilitation and release. Identify areas and corridors to protect, restore, manage, develop and implement Cassowary Conservation Local Area Plans as part of local planning
Beehler, B. M.; Pratt, T. K.; Zimmerman, D. A. 1986. Birds of New Guinea. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Coates, B. J. 1985. The birds of Papua New Guinea, 1: non-passerines. Dove, Alderley, Australia.
Beehler, B. 1985. Conservation of New Guinea rainforest birds. In: Diamond, A.W.; Lovejoy, T.E. (ed.), Conservation of tropical forest birds, pp. 233-247. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.
Burrows, I. 1995. A field survey of the avifauna of the Kikori river basin.
Beehler, B. M.; Burg, C. G.; Filardi, C.; Merg, K. 1994. Birds of the Lakekamu-Kunamaipa Basin. Muruk 6(3): 1-8.
Westcott, D. A. 1999. Counting cassowaries: what does cassowary sign reveal about their abundance? Wildlife Research 26: 61-67.
Garnett, S. T.; Crowley, G. M. 2000. The action plan for Australian birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra.
Johnson, A.; Bino, R.; Igag, P. 2004. A preliminary evaluation of the sustainability of cassowary (Aves: Casuariidae) capture and trade in Papua New Guinea. Animal Conservation 7(2): 129-137.
Kofron, C. P.; Chapman, A. 2006. Causes of mortality to the endangered Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii in Queensland, Australia. Pacific Conservation Biology 12(3): 175-179.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. 2002. Recovery plan for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii 2001-2005.
Further web sources of information
Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline for Casuarius casuarius johnsonii
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).
View photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Garnett, S., McClellan, R., Stattersfield, A.
Bishop, K., Dutson, G., Garnett, S., Westcott, D.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Casuarius casuarius. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 23/05/2013.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 23/05/2013.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
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Additional resources for this species