Cassowary Breeding Scheme Brings South Troppo to Hope in North Queensland

It is hoped that Troppo and Hope will help increase the number of their endangered species in the wild.

The 1,400 kilometer journey of Troppo, the southern cassowary, from the Gold Coast to Townsville will be worth it if Hope finds him a suitable companion.

Jordan Mountney is an ornithologist at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and leads the national southern cassowary breeding program.

“Troppo has lived with us since 1993. Unfortunately we haven’t had much success with him so we thought we’d send him here,” Mr Mountney said.

Mr Mountney says one of the biggest problems with captive populations is the limited gene pool to choose from when finding a match for animals.

“When we pair birds, we look at genetics and lineage to make sure those birds are suitable for each other,” he says.

Hope and Troppo meet for the first time through a fence.(ABC North Qld: Mia Knight)

Mr Mountney says the main aim of the breeding program is to create an “insurance population”.

“So if, God forbid, something happens to birds in the wild, we have a great deal of information that we’ve learned and found about those birds that we can then use to hopefully recover the species,” he said.

“I think he’s going to be very much in love with her. They seem to be a really good couple.

“They might not get along from the start, much like people. You can’t just put two in the same room and hope for the best. Sometimes it takes a little while to get to know each other. “

Smiling red haired man with cassowary in background
Jordan Mountney leads the National Cassowary Breading Program at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.(ABC North Qld: Mia Knight)

In addition to a good lineage, Hope also has ties to the local military.

Since 2018, Private Hope Tenacious has been the official mascot of the 11th Combat Service Support Battalion.

“We are very mindful of the pairings we pair, making sure these animals are suitable from both a compatibility and a genetic perspective,” Mr Mountney said.

“I would be thrilled if he had babies.

a cassowary pokes its head out of a large green metal box
Troppo was transported in a temperature-controlled container.(ABC North Qld: Mia Knight)

“I think he has the guts to raise babies to adulthood.

“Then hopefully these babies can be distributed to some of the facilities in Australia to make more pairs.

“It’s super important that we can perfect the techniques and the breeding to create sustainable populations in captivity.”

A man stands in front of the bush smiling
Beau Peberdy is the general manager of Billabong Sanctuary, near Townsville.(ABC North Qld: Mia Knight)

Troppo goes to Townsville

Mr Mountney said the logistics of getting a cassowary from the Gold Coast to Townsville “isn’t one of the easiest things to do”.

The 31-year-old bird had to be transported by road in a climate-controlled vehicle.

“The crates we put them in don’t fit on a plane,” says Mr Mountney.

“He’s from the Gold Coast – he might have that influencer mindset, who knows?”

Six men stand around a container with holes and a small latch
Troppo was initially hesitant to leave his container.(ABC North Qld: Mia Knight)

Beau Peberdy, managing director of Billabong Sanctuary, said Troppo’s reception has been quite positive so far.

“Hope saw him through the fence, and there was no aggressive behavior,” Mr Peberdy said.

“They have a low frequency sound that we can’t hear, but they can hear each other. She started making very curious noises.

“Hope let out a sound we’ve never heard before. Normally it’s a really loud bellow that goes through the forest pretty quickly.

“That vibe was different from all the other noises she was making. It wasn’t aggressive, it was pretty unique.

“We think that can only be a good thing.”

Mr Peberdy says the breeding season lasts until the end of November, but it can be a bit longer until there are eggs.

“If we’re lucky and these two get along, hopefully next year they’ll start mating,” he says.

“They can lay a clutch of eggs and 50 days later we might see little chicks.”