Thursday 17 March 2011

Another rare Cassowary victim to speeding car

I spotted this cassowary, hunting for food, just days after Cyclone Yasi ripped through a major local habitat area at Tully Heads, north of Mission Beach.

Just seven weeks after Cyclone Yasi devastated the natural habitat of the endangered Southern Cassowary around the coastal bush communities of Mission Beach, the first fatality has been discovered.

The large mature animal was found on the Tully to Mission Beach road on Tuesday. It appeared the vehicle had killed the animal at great speed.

"How can we have a 'Cassowarie Coast' if we don't have cassowaries?," local environmental campaigner Geoff Holland asks. "We must protect natural habitat and development within environmental parameters".

An online petition campaign aims to get 5,000 signatures to halt development in the Mission Beach area. In 2008 the then Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, disallowed a development on 'Lot 66' on the basis that it would have 'clearly unacceptable' impacts on the endangered cassowary at Mission Beach. A new development application is not much different to the original one and is situated in the middle of a significant corridor connecting critically endangered littoral rainforest to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The corridor is now known locally as the 'Garrett Corridor.'

Under current legislation, 40% of habitat at Mission Beach is unprotected.

"The pressure to develop natural habitat will continue as long as we do not have adequate legislation in place to protect it," Geoff Holland says. "Councils are on the back foot, fearful of court action. Developers need clear guidelines. But they shouldn't be able to keep coming back with development applications when they have already been knocked back, as is the case with Buchan's Point."

There is a fierce local fight erupting about the planned developments around Mission Beach communities. Some are suggesting that the population of Mission Beach can increase from 3,500 up to 18,000. This would have an adverse effect on threatened and endangered wildlife, especially the cassowary.

Cassowary populations in Mission Beach have declined in the last 10 years as land has been cleared and the degradation of lowland rainforest habitat, including from cyclones. Some traffic calming devices are being trialled on the Tully-Mission Beach Road to reduce the high numbers of cassowary road kills however, ongoing development continues to put the local cassowary population at risk.

Mission Beach boasts 12.8% of the remaining lowland rainforest in the Wet Tropics and the largest contiguous ‘block’ of lowland rainforest south of the Daintree River. Experts say it is the best coastal to highlands rainforest corridor and the most integral and widest east-west corridor between Cairns and Cardwell. The area contains 5% of all Australian vascular plant species and around 36% of bird species. Mission also is home to the highest density of cassowaries in Australia.

This famous funny, but poignant road sign, has recently been replaced on the Daintree road, on the way to Cape Tribulation. The top sign has of course been graffitied from what was a speed hump notice.

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