Oct 092015

It was during our first visit to Australia back in the 90s that we travelled to Cairns in Tropical North Queensland. The hotel location provided easy access to Mount Whitefield Regional Park and its walking tracks through the rainforest. As visitors from overseas we were particularly intrigued by a sign indicating the area was home to Southern Cassowaries, and eager to experience unique Aussie wildlife, set off in determined mood to see the mystery bird.

Sweating all day in the oppressive heat (later described as “unusually cool” for the time of year), we covered many kilometres in search of the apparently aloof creature. Despite being stopped in our tracks by a giant lizard, we headed home disappointed that our much anticipated meeting had failed to materialise.


What had we been thinking!! That night, over a well-deserved ice-cold beer (or two), we read hair-raising tales about the dangers of spooking a Cassowary. According to the info at hand, a bird that feels threatened may defend itself by charging and kicking with dagger-like claws, literally opening us up to the possibility of disembowelment!

(If you ever get yourself into a face-off with an irritable Cassowary, the literature advised holding a backpack between your torso and the bird while slowly backing away).

Having subsequently witnessed a Southern Cassowary at the zoo, this is a truly striking animal. Related to other flightless birds like the emu, ostrich and kiwi, it can tower up to two metres tall and weigh as much as 70kg – making it Australia’s heaviest bird. Possessing a vivid blue head, drooping red wattles and a ‘casque’, or horn-like structure on top of its head, the species’ extraordinary appearance is strongly suggestive of its dinosaur ancestry.

Unfortunately, the Southern Cassowary is now in serious difficulty. Degradation and fragmentation of its habitat as well as vehicle strikes and dog attacks mean that it’s a threatened species at State and Federal levels, and also listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. What many probably don’t realise is that Queensland numbers have fallen to only two or three thousand.

Endangered and Extinct – Southern Cassowary 2016 1oz Silver Proof Coin

That memorable day in the tropical rainforest makes this new release from the Endangered and Extinct Series one of significant personal interest. Depicting a vivid portrait of a Southern Cassowary with a chick, its low mintage of just 5,000 means more of these coins exist than there are birds in the wild – alarming!

Looking back, it’s a relief our paths never crossed. Today it seems more appropriate to appreciate Australia’s rare Southern Cassowary through the medium of this stunning silver coin.


Endangered and Extinct – Southern Cassowary 2016 1oz Silver Proof Coin

written by Stephen Ward



  6 Responses to “Endangered Cassowary a danger to strangers”

  1. What a shame you didn’t actually see a wild cassowary, they are truely a magnificent sight. But they are also shy and camouflage very well in their habitat, very easy to walk right past them in the bush because they stand perfectly still watching until danger has past (smile). We had the opportunity to demonstrate to a group of student volunteers when they were brought to our property for a chance to see a cassowary just how easy it is to miss them. We were standing at the edge of the forest while the person in charge talked to the students about the cassowary and while he was talking I could see a cassowary standing just in the forest watching. Nobody else heard or noticed it so I stepped in and while explaining how hard it is to see a cassowary, asked them all to look into the forest, not at but into and the students were absolutely amazed when they realise that a cassowary was standing so close to them, just watching. For such a big bird they hide very well.
    The photo used for the coin is of Dad the Cassowary and his 2012 chick Peanut, The story behind this photo also shows another, gentle side of the cassowary.
    On this particular day I was watching and photographing a 4yr old cassowary we called Sammy while it was drinking from pond of water supplied for wildlife when out of the forest came the older cassowary called Dad and his 2-3mth old chick, Peanut. Dad is also father to Sammy who hatched in 2009 with 4 other chicks but separated from his family around June 2010 due to a traffic incident while crossing the main road.
    Dad and Peanut came out of the forest and walked around the garden heading towards the water but when Dad saw Sammy drinking he lowered himself to the ground and called back Peanut who was still heading towards the water.
    By doing this Dad had indicated to Sammy he was no threat and Sammy continued drinking. Only when Sammy had finished and started to move away did Dad and Peanut continue towards the water to quench their own thirst.
    Just goes to show that even Cassowaries know, teach and demonstrate respect
    Yes, like any other living thing the cassowary can be dangarous but there is a whole lot more to them. Just need to respect

    • Beautiful story Robert and a great way to round out understanding and appreciation of the cassowary. Thanks for your contribution,

      Kind regards


  2. What is the lid of the box made from, no description given?


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