The Gladys Porter Zoo announced the birth of three southern cassowary birds on Father’s Day weekend after more than 24 years since a successful hatch, and it’s the male birds that incubate the eggs.
Natalie Lindholm, the zoo’s curator of birds, said the females will wander around looking for males to make a nest. They’ll lay the eggs and then the males will sit in the nest for up to 58 days and hatch up to six eggs at a time.
Clementine, the 36-year-old female bird who is the mother, laid her first egg March 23 and continued laying additional eggs for several weeks. The three chicks — who haven’t been named yet but are currently referred to as 1, 2 and 3 — hatched May 20, 22 and 27.
“She started laying eggs and, unfortunately, the first two were broken. But then, as we went along, we kept reading resources and figuring out how to set them up in heat, incubating and we had started wondering if they are getting close,” Lindholm said. “We were very successful. With the female being older, we heard various things from people that said, ‘She’s too old. Maybe.’ But there were other people saying that it is the perfect combination of an older female and a younger male. And that was going to be key to our success, but we didn’t know it.”
Clementine’s hatch was successful with Irwin, a 6-year-old southern cassowary who is a first-time father. Lindholm describes the species as a large, flightless and dangerous bird. Cassowaries are known as the world’s most dangerous bird and are the third largest, growing up to 5.8 feet tall.
“I learned a few things about them while we were in lockdown. I was doing readings and learning some special things about their structure. It is pretty interesting … the blackness of their feathers is really interesting,” she said. “For being this big, fierce thing and since they’re fruit eaters, they are also known as the gardeners of the rainforest. They are responsible for a lot of reforestation of the plants that they eat. They are vital to their ecosystem.”
Unfortunately for the public, the chicks won’t be on display for a while until they grow a little more and get used to having noises around and accepting all kinds of situations so that they can be calm birds, wherever they might go.
“They are small. And like any other kind of animal, they will try to get in as much trouble as they can. So, we just want to make sure that they’re big enough,” Lindholm said. “They hear the noises in the zoo, so they are just being acclimated to a whole bunch of stuff so that they can be calm wherever we take them to or if they go to another zoo.”
Cynthia Galvan, the zoo’s marketing director, said she is very excited that as COVID-19 vaccination rates go up, more and more people are visiting the zoo while following the safety protocols implemented to keep both the public and the animals safe.
“We are a perfect venue because we are outdoors, so we are definitely getting a lot more people than we did last summer, for sure,” she said. “There’s lots of new things for people to see at the zoo. We opened the otter exhibit, which is brand new. The colobus monkeys is a new section as well and so we just want people to come out and see the new things that we have out here at the zoo for them to enjoy.”
Attendees must wear a mask when coming into the zoo grounds, when indoors and while participating in feeding animals, but they are free to take it off while walking around and socially distancing themselves from other parties.
Galvan said the zoo is hosting the Summer Safari program where they offer classes and camps for children. It’s also featuring the Zoo Family Starlight Sleepover where the whole family sleeps at the zoo and explores around for a night.
“Those are coming up pretty soon, so if you’ve never spent the night at the Gladys Porter Zoo, that’s your opportunity to come out with your family, register and you sleep here at the zoo, do all kinds of activities and take the night tour of the zoo,” she said.
For more information, visit gpz.org.