NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Nashville Zoo celebrates the first Cassowary chick to hatch at the zoo. Neo is only a few months old and already has plenty of personality, according to Shelley Norris, Avian Area Supervisor.
Norris said they have been waiting for this day for a long time. “We’re really excited, it can take three to four seasons for a pair to produce a fertile egg. So we’re excited that her dad, this was his first breeding season. And he produced three fertile eggs, two did not make it to full incubation.”
Norris added they had to assist hatch Neo. Plus, Neo’s dad is sitting on four more eggs that may hatch in a couple of weeks. “It is the male that sits on the eggs for about fifty days.”
Cassowaries eat a lot of fruit, and they digest their food in about four hours. Right now, Neo is also being fed wet dog food for extra protein. Norris told News 2 the birds are native to Australia’s rainforests and are a very important species.
“There’s about twenty plus species of plants in the rainforests where they live, that would not germinate if they did not go through a cassowary’s gut. So, over in Australia they are called the ‘gardeners of the rainforest’. In Australia, their populations are endangered. We as people are their biggest threats. We love the habitat that they live in. It’s gorgeous and beautiful. So, a lot of people live there and we developed roads across their territory. Right now, they’re starting to build wildlife corridors in their habitat so that they can cross roads safely.”
Norris said Neo will look a lot different as an adult cassowary.
“The stripes will turn into adult brown like the reddish brown on her head, and in her awkward teenage stage, those feathers will go black. She will lose these feathers that are on her neck and her head, and then you’ll start seeing her skin coloration. Those will be blues, reds, beautiful oranges and maybe yellows, we don’t know what she will come up with. As an adult, they can be anywhere between 100-150 pounds. They live into their thirties, and in captivity, we’ve had birds live into their 50s. So, just being two months old, she’s got a long life to live.”
Currently, Neo has more than three million views on social media, and her own splash pad to stay cool.
“She has graduated to a little splash pad. One of our keepers has small children that have grown up and she brought that in for her and she loves it. Cassowaries in general, love the water. They’re excellent swimmers. So, in their natural habitat, they can cross rivers or streams. You’ll even seen them out swimming across the ocean base, just to get to other territories to find more food.”
Norris told News 2 that one of the best parts of her job is teaching Neo something new.
“We have all of our adults targeting to a different colored circle. Can you target? Good, so she touches and then she gets a treat, which is a cricket. This is how we will target her to a scale. We also do what’s called station training. So, we have a little mat and she knows if she stands on that mat, she’s going to get a cricket that’s how we get her weights every morning.”
Neo is not able to be seen to the public just yet, but Norris said people are going to love her big personality.
“She is all over the place. She loves to roll. This isn’t a behavior you see naturally with adults. So, I think it’s just kind of a play, that she’s playing right now. So, this is what she would do with her siblings. She just loves to jump in the air and just be free and land however she lands. She doesn’t care if it’ on her feet or not. We want to let her grow up a little bit more to where we can feel secure that she can defend herself. Once she can, she will go on exhibit, we’re hoping to get her closer to maybe thirty pounds.”
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