In a rare and captivating event for lovers of Australian wildlife, a southern cassowary, an endangered flightless bird, was filmed swimming in the Coral Sea near Bingil Bay, south of Cairns.
Traditional owner Nikita McDowell, who captured the spectacle, initially likened the animal sighting to seeing the Loch Ness monster.
“It just floated to shore until it reached the level where its feet could touch the ground,” Ms McDowell recounted.
The video shows the cassowary being buffeted by waves as it swam toward the shore.
Concerned for the bird’s wellbeing, Ms McDowell observed its exhaustion and facilitated assistance from wildlife carers.
Once on land, the cassowary headed to the rainforest, where it regurgitated saltwater.
While it might seem unusual for cassowaries to swim, veterinarian and cassowary expert Dr Graham Lauridsen explained to the ABC that they are competent swimmers, especially when threatened.
Dr Lauridsen explained that the cassowary’s buoyancy during swimming is facilitated by air sacs in their bodies, allowing them to stay afloat in the water.
Despite the potentially arduous swim, the cassowary in the video was unharmed.
Dr Lauridsen compared its post-swim condition to that of a person after a substantial swim – slightly fatigued until recovering.
The sighting emphasises the importance of protecting cassowaries from threats like dog attacks.
The primary threats include habitat loss, traffic, and domestic dog attacks.
Dr Lauridsen emphasised the need for dog owners to secure their pets to prevent harm to both cassowaries and dogs.
Ms McDowell expressed her joy at the cassowary’s safety, noting that while traditional owners knew cassowaries would hunt for food on the shoreline, witnessing one swimming so far out in the water was unprecedented.
She said the incident served as a reminder of the importance of conserving these unique and endangered birds in their natural habitat.
Originally published as Rare video of endangered southern cassowary swimming in Coral Sea