Thursday, June 24, 2010

vanishing Cassowary

It's a small item in yesterday's news: the north Queensland cassowary may vanish. The Rainforest Information Centre wants Peter Garrett to spend $60 million buying back land that's to be developed for housing in the Daintree north of Cairns and around Mission Beach to the south of Cairn. Subdivision is cutting through natural vegetation corridors and threatening the small remaining population of cassowarys, some 1000 birds. The cassowary population is being throttled by habitat lost, forced into smaller and smaller and less sustainable parcels of land by highways, subdivision and dogs. It's emblematic of what's happening in Australia, of how habitat loss and extinction happens in a developed country through the pressure of the constant push for development, of everybody wanting more. A third of Mission Beach's population died of starvation after Cyclone Larry in 2006. Populations are fragile and lack the access to alternative resources in times of stress.
"If they go, so too will many of the rainforest trees that depend on them for survival", says Ruth Rosenhek of the Rainforest Information Centre, showing the rippling pattern of change that is being inflicted on our natural environment by poorly planned development. The cassowary is a keystone species that distributes the seeds of some 150 species throughout the rainforest.
Ironically the cassowary is used extensively in tourism promotion for the region. But the tourism industry and the local economy isn't matching that with an obligation to protect this vanishing bird.

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