The Nashville Zoo bird department anxiously anticipated and planned the introduction of our adult female and male Double Wattled Cassowaries. In 2011 the Zoo acquired a young male, Sy, and the female, Marge, arrived at the end of 2014. Over the last year these birds have grown up in adjoining exhibits allowing them to familiarize themselves with each other in hopes that they would become a breeding pair.
Double Wattled Cassowary are typically solitary animals, preferring to pair up only for breeding. Females, being larger and more aggressive, usually travel the forest looking for mates. When she finds a suitable partner, she will lay an average of four eggs before moving on to a different area in search of another possible mate. For the next nine months, the father incubates the eggs and rears the chicks until they are able to survive on their own.
As breeding season approached, Zoo staff observed the birds’ interactions to determine whether or not the pair was mature enough to breed. After weeks of observation, the team decided the birds were ready to meet and began supervised introductions. Once the pair became comfortable with each other, the adjoining gates between a shared fence line were opened in hopes that they would mate.
Excitingly, the birds showed great compatibility by grooming each other, taking naps near each other and foraging for food together. Each day the keepers allowed the birds more time together hoping they would successfully breed and have chicks. As of May 2016, three eggs have been laid but the viability of the eggs is still to be determined.
The wild population of cassowaries is listed as vulnerable due to habitat loss and being struck by motor vehicles. Very few zoos are capable of breeding cassowaries, so if Nashville Zoo is able to successfully breed our birds it would have a huge impact on the future of the species. Next time you are at the Zoo, stop by the cassowary exhibit across from the Kangaroo Kickabout.