What YOU Can Do:
Go and sit quietly in nature to develop a new appreciation of your local wild places.
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iLCP Fellow Christian Ziegler‘s 1Frame4Nature:
Sometime in May 2012, I found myself sitting on the damp forest floor of the Daintree rainforest in Queensland, Australia next to a sleeping cassowary. Cassowaries are huge flightless birds that live in the tropical forests of Australia and New Guinea. They look prehistoric; half-bird and half-dinosaur with fine, glossy-black feathers, a long featherless neck colored turquoise, red and orange, and an absurdly tall shiny-brown casque on top of their heads. Sadly, cassowaries are endangered across much of their range due to hunting, loss of forest habitat, and predation from feral pigs and dogs. It is estimated that fewer than 1500 Southern Cassowaries remain in the tropical forests of Queensland, Australia, and this is where I went to document these awesome birds.
Locals called this cassowary sleeping next to me “Dad”, and I had been following him for weeks. At first I could follow him just 10 or 20 meters before he disappeared from view into the forest. Everyday I would quietly trail “Dad” through the Queensland rainforest with a pair of clippers to cut a path for my clumsy self as he slipped silently around liana tangles and under fallen trees. He was shockingly fast, but each day I could follow him for a little longer and by day ten he seemed to have grown used to me. I discovered that he spent all day looking for fruit, eating fruit, pooping out digested fruit and sleeping…. But mostly sleeping! I spent hours sitting next to an enormous sleeping dinosaur of a bird.
Cassowaries are part of an ancient group of birds (Ratites) that first appear in the fossil record 56-Million years ago, and they live in rainforests that are even older. The Daintree forest is more than 130-Million years old and cassowaries play a vital role here. They distribute more seeds than any other animal in the Queensland rainforest. Each day an adult cassowary eats hundreds of fruits, from tiny berries to the exotic big blue quandong fruit. Then as the cassowary wanders through the forest it defecates large seed-filled mounds of poop, dispersing seeds across their entire territory. Cassowaries are the forest gardeners, and without them Queensland’s diverse tropical forests would look very different.
I tend not to use hides when trying to capture pictures of wildlife, I prefer to quietly follow animals and habituate them to my presence. I can see the full breadth of their behavior this way. It takes time but it is so rewarding. I usually find that there is a moment when animals stop worrying about you and accept your presence, and then you can peek into their daily lives. This is what happened with “Dad”. I was granted a little insight into his life, and I watched him incubate his clutch of electric green eggs and raise three awkward fuzzy chicks until they were almost adults and ready to leave him to find territories of their own.
I would encourage anyone to go and sit quietly somewhere wild. You don’t have to follow a cassowary through the rainforest to learn about nature. Go and sit by a local pond or in a patch of forest near your neighborhood, and wait to see what happens. Maybe you will see a bumblebee pollinating a flower, or a little wren looking for insects. Maybe you will see something that surprises you, or an animal you never expected. You will develop a greater appreciation for the nature that surrounds us; it’s complexity, and the unique role of each organism. I think you will also enjoy yourself, and maybe feel a little happier and more relaxed for it.
Go and immerse yourself in nature, for the better we know our natural environment the more we want to care for and conserve it.
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