It's world Cassowary Day, celebrating those big, fantastic dinosaur-like birds that we all know and love. The Cassowary, found in the wet tropics of Far North Queensland and known by varying names including Goondye, Gunduy or Gundulu, have an ancient connection to these regions and the people that have inhabited them for thousands of years.
The cassowary is culturally significant to the traditional owners of the tropical rainforests. It is integral to their culture, customs and values, appearing in important traditional stories, ceremonies and dances.
But did know you the (fairly dark) traditional story of how the Cassowary came to be?
The Cassowary was once a wicked, louse-ridden man who lived by the Murray River in Queensland. Too lazy to hunt he preyed on and ate children. In revenge, the local tribe lured him to their camp on the pretext of removing the lice that kept him awake at night. When he fell asleep, they hacked off his arms and, as he rose to run for his life, he was transformed into a cassowary with its stunted wings.
(Sourced from ‘Birds: Myth, Lore and Legend’ by Rachel Warren Chadd and Marianne Taylor)
You can listen to Girringun Elder Uncle Claude Beeron tell the story in his own words below.
Sadly, like many unique creatures across the globe, the Cassowary is now endangered due to land clearing. Find out more about Cassowaries and how you can help to protect them at http://savethecassowary.org.au