Nifty zip-line delivers dinner on time to Zillie the cassowary
Zillie the Southern cassowary is using her sharp, Pterodactyl-like beak to delicately pluck fruits delivered via a new zip-line device at Melbourne Zoo.
Tomatoes, apples, stone fruits and grapes – Zillie’s all-time favourite snacks – are spiked onto a tree branch attached to the zip-line for her to reach up and grab.
Melbourne Zookeeper Ryan Pilgrim said this innovative way of feeding Zillie encouraged the 85-kilogram flightless bird’s natural foraging behaviours and kept mealtimes mentally stimulating.
“In the wild, Southern cassowaries would feed by plucking fruit from high trees and bushes,” Mr Pilgrim said. “This new device allows her to problem-solve, rather than eat fruit off the ground.”
Zillie receives food from the zip-line three times a day and visitors can watch as she swallows the fruit whole. She can eat anywhere from six to 15 kilograms of fruit a day.
Mr Pilgrim said Zillie was especially fascinating for visitors to watch due to her inquisitive and calm nature. The 13-year-old bird is considered a youngster, with the species typically living up to 60 years in zoos and around 20 years in the wild.
“Zillie often stands right near the viewing window so you can closely admire her electric blue face, red wattles and grey helmet, which is called a casque,” Mr Pilgrim said. “It’s amazing to watch her eat as she is quite gentle in plucking the fruit off the branch, then quickly swallows the large fruits whole.”
Southern cassowaries are native to the tropical rainforests of north-east Queensland and Papua New Guinea. Reaching up to two metres tall, these powerful birds are characterised by their long legs and three-toed feet with sharp claws.
Cassowaries are an incredibly important species for biodiversity as they help to maintain healthy, diverse rainforests by spreading seeds as they eat and run.
Zoos Victoria and Melbourne Zoo visitors are reminded that all tickets must be pre-booked online at zoo.org.au. Zoos Victoria Members no longer need to book tickets. •