Cassowary crossings improved

IMPROVING HOTSPOTS FOR CASSOWARIES, DRIVERS

27 SEPTEMBER 2023

Cassowary crossing hotspots on Mission Beach roads are now safer for the endangered birds and for drivers.

Weeds have been replaced with cassowary food plants under the bridge at Wongaling Creek on the El Arish-Mission Beach Road and tall roadside grass is being regularly slashed and brush-cut at ‘Garrett’s Corridor’ on the Tully-Mission Beach Road.

Cassowaries crossing under bridge

Terrain NRM’s Tony O’Malley said the changes made it easier for cassowaries to cross under the bridge and avoid the busy road, and also more appealing for them to take that route, while at Garrett’s Corridor it was easier for cassowaries and drivers to see, and avoid, each other.

“James Cook University’s recent cassowary vehicle strike social research project showed us we can’t just rely on raising awareness in the community to reduce cassowary strikes – we have to change the roadside environment too,’’ Mr O’Malley said.

“So we formed a working group of Cassowary Recovery Team members and local organisations to investigate and agree on actions to improve safety for drivers and cassowaries at two crossing hotspots.”

Drivers interviewed to learn about collisions

In the James Cook University study, drivers were interviewed about collisions with cassowaries and roadside camera footage was examined for a better understanding of both cassowary and driver behaviour.

Researcher India Marshall said most drivers thought the accidents weren’t due to their driving, although some people who witnessed collisions suggested otherwise.

“The videos showed some careless driving but also variable cassowary reactions to vehicles, making it hard for drivers to prepare for interactions,” she said.

“Drivers suggested that driver education would be effective. We can’t rely solely on education to reduce strikes though, so changes to road environments are also needed, such as replacing weeds and hazardous trees at crossing zones with low-growing native plants.”

Working with community group C4 

Terrain NRM recently engaged Mission Beach organisation ‘C4 – Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation’ to improve the vegetation at two cassowary crossing hotspots, as part of Terrain’s Building Rainforest Resilience Project. This project is supported by Terrain, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

C4 president Peter Rowles said it was important to maintain multiple options for birds to pass from one side of the road to the other.

“Why don’t people see cassowaries crossing at Wongaling Creek as much anymore? It’s not because there are no cassowaries there. They just do it better now by going under the bridge.”

Collaborative effort to improve hotspots

Cassowary Recovery Team Chair Scott Buchanan applauded the work of the recovery team and partners to improve safety at the cassowary crossing hotspots.

“This work was led by Terrain NRM and it’s through these community engagement processes that the best outcomes are achieved,’’ he said.

For more information about the James Cook University study of driver behaviour, see this factsheet:

Cassowary Vehicle Strike Research Findings

To report a cassowary incident, phone 1300 130 372.

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