A Florida man has been attacked and killed by a close relative of the emu, the cassowary, a human-sized flightless bird feared for its huge claws and swift powerful movements. The man was reportedly a breeder of the exotic birds.
The cassowary, which is native to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Australia, has been blamed for a vicious attack on its owner, a 75-year-old farmer named Marvin Hajos in Gainesville, Florida.
According to the Alachua County Fire Rescue Department, the heavily built bird made good use of its killer claws, which can grow up to four inches (10cm) long, when it pounced on its elderly owner.
Deputy Chief Jeff Taylor told the Gainesville Sun that the bird’s attack was swift and ruthless, and apparently happened after Hajos fell to the ground. It likely took the bird, which can run at speeds of up to 31mph (50kph), mere seconds to close in on its prey and tear him to pieces.
“My understanding is that the gentleman was in the vicinity of the bird and at some point fell. When he fell, he was attacked,” Taylor said.
Upon being called to the scene on Friday, rescuers rushed Hajos to hospital but he could not be saved and succumbed to his injuries shortly afterwards.
The fate of the murderous bird is unclear. For the time being, it has been isolated on a private property, according to the sheriff’s office spokesman Lt. Brett Rhodenizer, who called the clash between the man and the bird a “tragic accident.”
Cassowaries, which are known as “the most dangerous bird in the world” have attacked people before and are understood to pose a significant danger to both humans and pets. However, while there have been multiple reports of people getting injured by the bird, there has been only one known fatality which dates back to 1926, and it was not entirely unprovoked. Philipp McLean, 16, was killed by a cassowary after he hit the bird with his horse’s bridle for attacking his dog. In the ensuing chase, the boy tripped and fell, and the bird sliced his neck with its sharp claws.
The largest cassowary species can stand up to 1.2-1.7 meters (5.6 feet) in height and weigh up to 76kg (167 pounds). Female cassowaries are bigger and taller than males. A special permission is needed to own cassowaries in the US, which mandates that owners must have “substantial experience” in handling the birds and keep them caged.
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