When the legendary bird of Papua is mentioned, many people will think of the Bird of Paradise or Cenderawasih immediately. While it is completely true, Bird of Paradise is not the only endemic bird of Papua. This beautiful island still has more iconic birds and one of them is Cassowary. Cassowary is also dubbed as the icon of West Papua.
Cassowary is truly a very unique bird. Its gigantic body is different with most birds and it is categorized as one of the biggest birds in the world. Cassowary might not be the nicest birds on earth, but its extraordinary appearance makes many people love this big bird.
Interesting Characteristics of Cassowary
In West Papua, the main habitat for Cassowary is in Salawati, Sorong Klamono and also East Waigeo. But just because its habitat is not exactly a secret, it doesn’t mean that people can just try to find and get close to it. This is because Cassowary is very strong and it is even classified as one of the most dangerous birds in the world.
Cassowary is not an ordinary bird because the size of its body is incredibly huge for a bird. Adult Cassowary can reach 170 cm tall and its weight is around 58 kg. Due to its body size, this bird cannot fly but it can run extremely fast. Cassowary has a pair of very strong legs that capable to take down a person with one single kick. As a matter of fact, one of its main defenses against predators and other threats is its strong legs and claws.
Actually, Cassowary is a very shy animal and it naturally will go to the quiet part of the forests to avoid other creatures. However, if it feels threatened, this gigantic bird can turn extremely aggressive. It will not hesitate to chase after the creatures that disturb it and due to its running speed as well as the strength of its leg, Cassowary is deemed to be very dangerous.
There are three species of Cassowary that can be found in West Papua—Casuarius unappendiculatus, Casuarius casuarius and Casuarius bennetti that is often called dwarf cassowary. But don’t let the name fool you. Just because it is called dwarf cassowary, the bird is not exactly tiny. As a matter of fact, dwarf cassowary can still reach 1 meter tall.
Cassowary’s body is created to adapt and live in thick forests and bushes. It has black and stiff feather that will protect its body when it walks among thick bushes. Furthermore, the triangle shaped casque on top of its head is capable to protect its skull and also help making way when it walks among thick vegetation.
Cassowary is not only strong but also beautiful. The color of the neck is bright blue, contrasting with the black feather. In addition, it has one or a couple of red wattles on its neck that becomes one of the bird’s unique point.
Its beautiful and unique appearance turns out to be a disadvantage for Cassowary. Over the years, so many people hunt this big bird down for its eggs, meats and also the feather. According to research, local tribes use traditional hunting methods which capable to hunt two or three Cassowaries per day. As the beauty of the bird becomes even more popular, outsiders who use more modern hunting methods also come to Papua to hunt the poor birds. Modern hunting methods can kill more Cassowaries in one day and no matter how strong the bird is, it still cannot fight against modern weapons.
As a result for those irresponsible hunting, Cassowary population in Papua is declining. There is no data regarding the number of Cassowary in Papua, however, evidences show that it is declining rapidly. IUCN Redlist even has put Cassowary into Vulnerable category since 1994. The road to extinction for Cassowary is getting closer as its natural habitat is converted into housings, farming lands and spaces for industries.
The government as well as the residents of West Papua has done plenty of efforts to protect Cassowary, the icon of West Papua. The people around the forests of Manokwari try to protect the beautiful birds by creating “Cassowary Coffee”. It is a small yet effective effort to raise awareness regarding the protection of Cassowary to people in West Papua. Furthermore, the government also has built some ex situ conservations to protect the birds from hunters and to create a safer habitat for the birds.
It will be much better if the government enforces a stronger law to stop hunting and trades of Cassowary. Cassowary is the pride of Papua and it will be a shame if such an exquisite bird will go extinct due to human’s carelessness. Thankfully, the people in Papua now have realized that Cassowary is a precious treasure for this island. As a result, most locals have stopped hunting them and even go out their way to protect the bird.