On June 5, Nashville Zoo welcomed our first cassowary chick into the world. After 54 days of incubation and a few harrowing nights of severe weather, the female chick hatched and is currently being cared for in the Zoo’s HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center.
“The males are the ones that sit on the eggs and protect them from harm,” said Shelley Norris, Nashville Zoo’s Avian Area Supervisor. “He sat through several bad storms in April and May including the big storm that took down over 60 trees at the Zoo. Two of those were very close to the nest and he never moved!”
During times that the male moved away from the nest, keepers were able to monitor and actually see inside the two, large, pea-green eggs using a portable x-ray machine. Several weeks of observation passed with no development detected in either egg. The keepers made a decision to move the eggs to an incubator at the Veterinary Center giving the cassowary couple another chance to breed and lay viable eggs. Surprise! The veterinary team discovered that one of the eggs was fertile. The chick was born a few weeks later.
Neo weighed 418 grams (just shy of one pound) at birth. She will grow steadily for the next three years until she is fully mature at about five feet high and 130 pounds. Before then, Neo will be sent to another conservation organization to meet her mate.
Double-wattled or Southern Cassowaries (Casuarius casuarius) are native to Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia and are not considered endangered though their habitat is threatened by commercial development and agriculture. Nashville Zoo helps to protect the cassowary by supporting Australian organizations that preserve this species’ native habitats. The Zoo also participates in the cassowary Species Survival Plan®, a program developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining captive population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.
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