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Northern Cassowary Casuarius unappendiculatus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is classified as Vulnerable on the basis of an estimated small, declining population. However, there are few data and, although this species is generally scarce, it is often shy. Basic research may lead to reclassification.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

150 cm. Large, black ratite. Adult all black except bright blue and red neck, with small blue or red single wattle. Chicks are striped then become plain brown, paler than other forest gamebirds. Similar spp. The upland Dwarf Cassowary C. bennetti is smaller, with a low casque and no wattle. The parapatric Southern Cassowary C. casuarius has a higher casque and double wattle. Voice Booming and grunting similar to other cassowaries. Hints Rarely seen, its presence is usually indicated by its large piles of droppings containing fruit stones, or by its large, three-toed footprints.

Distribution and population
Casuarius unappendiculatus is restricted to the northern lowlands of New Guinea (Papua, formerly Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea). Its distribution on the Vogelkop is poorly known, but it is known from Yapen, Batanta and Salawati islands (Coates 1985, Eastwood 1996, B. Beehler in litt. 2000). There are few records as this region is seldom visited. There are recent records from Batanta, Salawati and Waigeo in north-west Papua, but several other surveys in Papua have failed to find it (Eastwood 1996, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1999, Mack and Alonso 2000). It is usually less common where hunted (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1999), but large areas of its range are remote with few hunters and it is suspected to be fairly common in the foothills of the Foja Mountains of western New Guinea (B. Beehler in litt. 2012). Beyond these scattered records, there are no data on population or trends.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
It is suspected to be declining at a moderately rapid rate, owing to hunting pressure and increasing habitat loss and pressures from an expanding human population.

It inhabits lowland forest, including swamp-forest, to 700 m (Coates 1985. Beehler et al. 1986). Its ecology is poorly known but presumed to be similar to that of C. casuarius and it is reported to be an obligate frugivore with a critical ecological role as a seed disperser in New Guinea.

All cassowaries Casuarius spp. are heavily hunted close to populated areas and this species may be particularly vulnerable as it has a preference for river floodplains which are highly populated (B. Whitney in litt. 2000). As well as constituting a major food source for subsistence communities, it has a major cultural importance, including use as gifts in pay-back ceremonies, the feathers and bones as decoration and bones as tools (Coates 1985, Beehler et al. 1986, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1999). Chicks captured on hunts are reared in villages for trade and consumption, but there is no breeding of domesticated birds (I. Burrows in litt. 1994). 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. 2004). Increasing human populations and the spread of shotguns increasingly being used for hunting exacerbate hunting pressure on the species. It can probably survive in selectively logged forest, but logging roads open up previously inaccessible forests to hunting (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1999). Although cassowaries appear to survive in some hunted areas, this is dependent on the local culture and the availability of weapons and alternative meat-sources (Beehler 1985, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1999).

Conservation Actions Underway
A village based survey has been connducted in Papua New Guinea investigating sustainability of wildlife capture and trade (Johnson et al. 2004).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey distribution of this and C. casuarius in Vogelkop using camera-trapping methods. Gather demographic data on the species to inform sustainable harvest calculations. Research and quantify the effects of hunting, and use this information to inform community-based wildlife management providing local communities with sustainable catch quotas. Research and quantify the effects of logging. Survey extensive areas through discussion with local hunters. Develop a repeatable monitoring technique in protected areas. Monitor populations in protected areas. Campaign for non-hunting protected areas in Papua New Guinea such as April-Saulemei or Ramu lowlands. Use this species as a figurehead for establishing ecotourism-funded protected areas. Liaise with Australian research and action on C. casuarius.

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.

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.

Eastwood, C. 1996. A trip to Irian Jaya. Muruk 8(1): 12-23.

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.

Mack, A. L.; Alonso, L. E. 2000. A biological assessment of the Wapoga River Area of Northwestern Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Conservation International, Washington, DC.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Derhé, M., Dutson, G., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A.

Beehler, B., Bishop, K., Burrows, I., Whitney, B.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Casuarius unappendiculatus. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016.

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

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Northern cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus)

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Casuariidae (Cassowaries, Emus)
Species name author Blyth, 1860
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 186,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species