The Australian government is introducing new measures to do more to protect one of the country’s most extraordinary and rare birds – the helmeted cassowary (Casuarius casuarius). Also known as “living dinosaurs,” the large ratites have roamed the planet for millions of years. Today they only live in the state of Queensland and Papua New Guinea. In the meantime, however, their existence is not only threatened by the loss of their habitat, but also by road traffic and dog attacks, as the Australian broadcaster ABC reported on Wednesday.

Among other things, the area of ​​​​the existing protection areas for the birds is to be significantly increased by 2031, according to the government plan, which was drawn up with the help of animal welfare organizations. The authorities also want to buy land for this purpose. The recommended measures also include education campaigns for dog owners and better signage to warn drivers of helmeted cassowaries.

Shrunk to 5000 copies

Meanwhile, surveys are to be used to determine how many copies there are at all. According to ABC, experts for Australia assume a population of a maximum of 5,000 animals.

The birds, also known as southern cassowaries, can weigh around 70 kilograms. The partly bright blue-red skin on the neck, the helmet-like horn tissue on the head and the shimmering black feathers are striking. The flightless birds can reach speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour with their powerful legs. They can use their sharp claws as a dangerous weapon.

According to experts, the animals also play an important role in maintaining the biodiversity of rainforest trees. Because the birds are among the few fruit-eating animals that are able to spread large fruits over a wide area.

“Cassowaries are believed to have evolved around 60 million years ago and share some features with dinosaurs, including their three-toed feet with dagger-like claws and respiratory system,” wrote the Queensland Department of the Environment in 2019, captioned: “Cassowaries – ancient “Wonderful and Dangerous”.