It’s on! Just five days after the wall came down and Queensland’s wildest Bachie, Yarrabah, traded feathers with a sexually-mature bird called Hope, the cassowaries are definitely courting, displaying all the usual signs of mating behaviour.
Jeremy Hurburgh, Head Bird Keeper from the Townsville sanctuary said the newly-formed pair promenades in front of visitors in a similar way those other loved up Bachies, Sam and Snez. Yarrabah’s plumage went up – cue nature’s pointer to a buff bird bod – and he immediately circled his girl.
“After five days of getting to know each other, Hope and Yarrabah are just hanging out, sitting side by side, or taking time to wander up and down the fence line,” said Jeremy.
“We don’t know if they’ve done the deed yet, but in about 30 days – the gestation period for a Cassowary – hopefully we’ll see three or four eggs laid a couple of days apart.”
Getting Hope’s baby daddy into peak condition is a job in itself and Jeremy and the team at Billabong Sanctuary will spend the next few weeks fattening Yarrabah up for the long incubation period ahead. The aim is to make sure Yarrabah has no reason to wander off and leave the eggs exposed to potential predators.
“If all goes to plan, once Yarrabah goes into full fatherhood mode there’s a potential he’ll lose his appetite. We want Yarrabah to sit and incubate the eggs and be able to concentrate on the job for the next 55 days.
So what happens to our femme fatale after that?
“We separate the pair. There no Hope she’s going to stick around.”
Cassowaries are a threatened species and successful captive breeding is vital to the cassowaries’ survival.
In a move to match the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fence separating the resident cassowary pair at Billabong Sanctuary came down at 9.30am last Friday allowing the two pre-identified breeders to meet.
Yarrabah is one of the 31 male and 34 female cassowaries on the Southern Cassowary Population Management Programme. He has successfully bred and was paired with Hope, a three year old newly sexually-mature female who came from Perth Zoo as part of the breeding programme.
Billabong Sanctuary is one of 32 wildlife parks and zoos Australia wide in the Southern Cassowary Population Management Programme. Historically, there has been a lack of consistent breeding of non kinship birds in zoological institutions.
The cassowary breeding season extends from June to October. The breeding age for females in the breeding programme has been identified as 3 – 46 years and for males 4 to 35 years.
Cassowaries will live in excess of 60 years in captivity.