Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? If all goes well, Romeo will be rearing chicks in the near future!
If you’ve visited the Lands of Change: Australia and Beyond section of the Zoo, you’ve probably seen Romeo and Juliet, our four-year-old southern cassowaries. Similar to the characters in the Shakespearian play, Romeo and Juliet have been admiring each other from afar, but we are hoping they’ll spark a romance when we introduce them at the end of the month!
The cassowaries, who have been at the Zoo since Australasia reopened as Lands of Change in 2017 and recently reached sexual maturity, have not been introduced in the past. The process of doing so is not simple, as cassowaries are solitary birds that only come together to breed. It is typical for the females to show aggression toward the males, which is why keepers will closely monitor the pair when they’re put together for the first time.
We hope that once they become more comfortable with each other, we will be able to increase their time together from short periods to multi-day stints. Keepers have already observed Romeo and Juliet laying next to each other on the fence line between their habitats, which is a good sign that they are interested in one another!
We are cautiously optimistic that, if all goes well, they will breed and Juliet will lay fertile eggs. In this case, the pair will again be separated and the eggs will be left with Romeo as male cassowaries incubate them and raise the chicks. If Romeo’s instincts fail to kick in and he doesn’t sit on the eggs, we will artificially incubate them behind the scenes.
There are no guarantees that the breeding will be successful, but we are looking forward to the possibility of contributing to the population of southern cassowaries, a species vulnerable to extinction due to habitat loss. We hope that our Romeo and Juliet will be able to rewrite the love story!