Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Struthioniformes Casuariidae

Scientific Name: Casuarius unappendiculatus
Species Authority: Blyth, 1860
Common Name(s):
English Northern Cassowary
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
Identification information: 150 cm. Large, black ratite. Adult all black except bright blue and red neck, with small blue or red single wattle. Chicks are striped then become plain brown, paler than other forest gamebirds. Similar spp. The upland Dwarf Cassowary C. bennetti is smaller, with a low casque and no wattle. The parapatric Southern Cassowary C. casuarius has a higher casque and double wattle. Voice Booming and grunting similar to other cassowaries. Hints Rarely seen, its presence is usually indicated by its large piles of droppings containing fruit stones, or by its large, three-toed footprints.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Symes, A. & Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Beehler, B., Bishop, K., Burrows, I. & Whitney, B.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Derhé, M., Dutson, G., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A.
This species is classified as Vulnerable on the basis of an estimated small, declining population. However, there are few data and, although this species is generally scarce, it is often shy. Basic research may lead to reclassification.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Vulnerable (VU)
2004 Vulnerable (VU)
2000 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (VU)
1988 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Casuarius unappendiculatus is restricted to the northern lowlands of New Guinea (Papua, formerly Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea). Its distribution on the Vogelkop is poorly known, but it is known from Yapen, Batanta and Salawati islands (Coates 1985, Eastwood 1996, B. Beehler in litt. 2000). There are few records as this region is seldom visited. There are recent records from Batanta, Salawati and Waigeo in north-west Papua, but several other surveys in Papua have failed to find it (Eastwood 1996, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1999, Mack and Alonso 2000). It is usually less common where hunted (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1999), but large areas of its range are remote with few hunters and it is suspected to be fairly common in the foothills of the Foja Mountains of western New Guinea (B. Beehler in litt. 2012). Beyond these scattered records, there are no data on population or trends.

Countries occurrence:
Indonesia; Papua New Guinea
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 186000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Number of Locations: 11-100
Continuing decline in number of locations: Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Upper elevation limit (metres): 700
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend Justification:  It is suspected to be declining at a moderately rapid rate, owing to hunting pressure and increasing habitat loss and pressures from an expanding human population.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 2500-9999 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
No. of subpopulations: 2-100 Continuing decline in subpopulations: Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It inhabits lowland forest, including swamp-forest, to 700 m (Coates 1985. Beehler et al. 1986). Its ecology is poorly known but presumed to be similar to that of C. casuarius and it is reported to be an obligate frugivore with a critical ecological role as a seed disperser in New Guinea.
Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Yes
Generation Length (years): 10
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): All cassowaries Casuarius spp. are heavily hunted close to populated areas and this species may be particularly vulnerable as it has a preference for river floodplains which are highly populated (B. Whitney in litt. 2000). As well as constituting a major food source for subsistence communities, it has a major cultural importance, including use as gifts in pay-back ceremonies, the feathers and bones as decoration and bones as tools (Coates 1985, Beehler et al. 1986, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1999). Chicks captured on hunts are reared in villages for trade and consumption, but there is no breeding of domesticated birds (I. Burrows in litt. 1994). This hunting and trade is not sustainable in many areas and has led to its extirpation from some sites, as the species is traded at a sub-national level to supply markets in more densely populated areas (Johnson et al. 2004). Increasing human populations and the spread of shotguns increasingly being used for hunting exacerbate hunting pressure on the species. It can probably survive in selectively logged forest, but logging roads open up previously inaccessible forests to hunting (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1999). Although cassowaries appear to survive in some hunted areas, this is dependent on the local culture and the availability of weapons and alternative meat-sources (Beehler 1985, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1999).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Conservation Actions Underway
A village based survey has been connducted in Papua New Guinea investigating sustainability of wildlife capture and trade (Johnson et al. 2004).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey distribution of this and C. casuarius in Vogelkop using camera-trapping methods. Gather demographic data on the species to inform sustainable harvest calculations. Research and quantify the effects of hunting, and use this information to inform community-based wildlife management providing local communities with sustainable catch quotas. Research and quantify the effects of logging. Survey extensive areas through discussion with local hunters. Develop a repeatable monitoring technique in protected areas. Monitor populations in protected areas. Campaign for non-hunting protected areas in Papua New Guinea such as April-Saulemei or Ramu lowlands. Use this species as a figurehead for establishing ecotourism-funded protected areas. Liaise with Australian research and action on C. casuarius.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Casuarius unappendiculatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22678114A38270680. . Downloaded on 04 October 2015.
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