World-first cassowary land bridge

June 25, 2020

A cassowary land bridge will be built over the Bruce Highway near El Arish – and work on the highway upgrade begins in July.

The bridge will help to connect the Wet Tropics region’s lowland and highland cassowary populations by linking the largest patch of lowland rainforest south of the Daintree with core Wet Tropics world heritage areas.

It will be built at Smith’s Gap, in the middle of a top priority cassowary corridor, and funded by the Australian Government as part of the Queensland Government’s Department of Transport and Main Roads works to install a southbound overtaking lane.

Terrain NRM’s Tony O’Malley said fencing along the highway would keep cassowaries off the road and direct them to the bridge with its cassowary food plants.

He said Terrain NRM had been working with the Department of Transport and Main Roads on the project for several years as part of the Cassowary Recovery Team and it was great to see the project progressing to the construction phase.

Mr O'Malley said recent cassowary deaths on Wet Tropics roads highlighted the need for new initiatives.

“This land bridge is about re-establishing connectivity between cassowary populations for genetic diversity of this endangered species, and about giving them access to diverse resources, especially young adults seeking new territory’’ he said.

“The highway is currently a very effective barrier. Smith’s Gap is part of Australia’s longest and widest east-west rainforest corridor, along Walter Hill Range. It connects coastal rainforest at Mission Beach to highland rainforest at Mt Hypipamee near Ravenshoe.”

The cassowary land bridge will be built 2km south of El Arish.

Mr O'Malley said the Department of Transport and Main Roads and the Cassowary Recovery Team were working on solutions for the region's cassowary vehicle strike hotspots as well.

Finding solutions to cassowary deaths and injuries on roads is also part of Terrain NRM's Building Rainforest Resilience project. This project is supported by Terrain through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.