The Southern Cassowary is a very large ratite, meaning it belongs to the group that includes Emu, Kiwi, and ostriches. Like all ratites, it is ground-dwelling. Its wings are extremely reduced and it cannot fly. Adults have black feathers and a bright blue neck with a red nape and large, obvious red wattles hanging from the front. It naturally occurs in rainforests in New Guinea (east Indonesia and Papua New Guinea) and north-eastern Australia.

This specimen was donated to the Museum in 1887 by the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria which managed the Melbourne Zoological Gardens, now commonly known as Melbourne Zoo. It originally came from Queensland.

The Southern Cassowary was described by Linnaeus in 1758. The genus and species name, Casuarius casuarius, are derived from its Malay name of "kesuari".

Numbers of Southern Cassowaries in Australia seem to have declined rapidly in the last 50 years due to habitat destruction. In 2010 around 2,500 adults remained in the wild. The risk to Australian populations through habitat destruction has since been reduced and Australian populations now appear stable. However, some populations in New Guinea are thought to be extinct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) therefore considers Southern Cassowary to be Vulnerable.

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