For Immediate Release
DES MOINES, Iowa (June 27, 2019) Officials from Iowa’s Blank Park Zoo announced today that a southern cassowary chick successfully hatched at Blank Park Zoo on June 10. The chick weighed 300 grams shortly after it hatched and now weighs over 450 grams. This is the first successful hatching of a southern cassowary chick at Blank Park Zoo in the years since the Zoo opened the David Kruidenier Australia Adventure in 2011.
“It’s really exciting to have our first chick hatch,” said Megan Stegmeir, bird and reptile supervisor. “The cassowary is endangered in Australia and they are part of the species survival program, so this is special for not only Blank Park Zoo but also for the species.”
At this time, it is unknown whether it is a male or female, and a blood test has been conducted to determine its sex and the results are not known at this time.
The mother is ‘Sydney,’ and ‘Big Bird’ is the father. The father incubates the eggs and raises the chick. The chick can be seen daily following its father around the cassowary habitat and has access to a behind-the-scenes indoor area if it needs some time away from the visiting public.
Like an ostrich or an emu, the cassowary is a ratite, a large and flightless bird. Unique to the cassowary is its casque on its head, a blue neck, and a bright red double waddle. Cassowaries are known to be aggressive and keepers use some of the same safety protocols as much larger animals such as rhinos and lions.
The chick has yet to be named and an internal employee fundraiser will soon determine the name with the proceeds being donated to a cassowary conservation organization.
About the Southern Cassowary (sources: Rainforesttrust.org, IUCN Red List, AZA)
Cassowaries are solitary animals and only socialize during breeding season. Cassowaries were once plentiful in Australia, but deforestation has caused a decline in their numbers. Female cassowaries weigh around 104 pounds and males weigh around 84 pounds. Cassowaries do not form permanent bonds and a female will mate with several males during mating season, laying a clutch of three to five eggs for each father to incubate. The male will incubate the eggs for around 50 days and then raise the chick for nine months. A chick will reach maturity in about three years. The southern cassowary has a median life expectancy of 26 years.
About Blank Park Zoo
The mission of Blank Park Zoo is to inspire and appreciation of the natural world through conservation, education, research and recreation. Blank Park Zoo is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., daily. Admission rates are $14 for adults, $8 for children under 12, and $11 for seniors and active military. Children two years and under and Blank Park Zoo members are free. The Zoo is located at 7401 SW 9th St., Des Moines, IA 50315. Visit the Zoo online at http://www.blankparkzoo.com. The Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) The AZA is America’s leading accrediting organization that sets rigorous, professional standards for zoos and aquariums. The AZA is building North America's largest wildlife conservation movement by engaging and inspiring the 143 million annual visitors to its member institutions and their communities to care about and take action to help protect wildlife.