baudrunner's space: Danger: greening in progress
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Danger: greening in progress

The Cassowary of Australia and New Guinea is an indispensable contributor to the Green Planet. Notwithstanding that it has been voted by The Guinness Book of World Records to be the most dangerous bird in the world, the Australian wildlife authorities would never deign to remove the animal as a threat to human safety even to the extent that large areas of Australian natural parks have been closed to prevent human-bird interaction, since in more recent history the wild Cassowary has been losing its fear of humans.

the Cassowary

The bird's value lies in the reproductive cycle of the staple of its diet, which consists primarily of fruits that fall from the several hundred species of rain forest trees that bear them, many highly toxic and some rare. The seeds are passed in large dense scats, and their viability in some cases is almost totally dependent on this cycle. For example, germination rates for the Australian rain forest tree Ryparosa are found to be much higher after passing through the Cassowary's gut (92% versus 4%). These seeds are dispersed over great distances, and in this way the forests expand their territory. Were the Cassowary to become extinct like so many other large flightless birds rain forest reduction in the south and in the northeast of Australia would be the result. It is illegal to shoot a Cassowary.

The Cassowary is the third largest bird in the world and the largest land animal in Australia. They are strong, aggressive and unpredictable. The inner toe of its three-toed foot has a five inch long dagger-like spike which it doesn't hesitate to use when it feels threatened or when it is protecting its young. They are capable of inflicting fatal injuries to humans and animals by disembowelment. They are not popular among zoo keepers as they are one of the most dangerous animals to manage.

Their call is a lowing type of call barely detectable by human ears. These low frequency calls can sometimes be heard over three miles away.

The appearance of the Cassowary is reminiscent of some now extinct dinosaurs. They have a distinctive helmet-like casque on their heads which they use for clearing the way ahead of them when rummaging through the forest floor with heads lowered. They have been known to collide with the boles of trees when running through the undergrowth and this feature seems to protect them from injury.

The future of the Cassowary is not gauranteed as humans ultimately will displace these birds in areas that are not protected.

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