Cassowary kills suspected breeder in Florida

Cheryl Sanders
April 15, 2019

About 10:30 a.m., authorities received a call from a witness stating the man fell and had been attacked by the bird at a property off Alachua County Road 235 - northwest of the University of Florida in Gainesville - where the cassowary and other captive wildlife are housed.

Florida Fish and Water spokeswoman Karen Parker told the Gainesville Sun the commission believed the man was breeding the birds.

The San Diego zoo's website calls cassowaries the world's most unsafe bird with a 10cm dagger-like claw on each foot.

"My understanding is that the gentleman was in the vicinity of the bird and at some point fell", he said.

According to Alachua County Fire Rescue, 75-year-old Marvin Hajos was near his pet cassowary when he fell and the bird attacked.

For the time being it has been secluded on a private property, according to the sheriff office's spokesman Lt. Brett Rhodenizer, who called the clash between the man and the bird a "tragic accident".

Deputy chief Jeff Taylor said: "It looks like it was accidental".

Cassowaries are large, flightless birds that are native to Australia and New Guinea. Their head, neck and throat areas are featherless, which reveal bright blue skin.

The cassowary is the second heaviest bird in the world. "Each 3-toed foot has a dagger-like claw on the inner toe that is up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) long!"

The organisation says: "The cassowary can slice open any predator or potential threat with a single swift kick". Philipp McLean, 16, was killed by a cassowary after he hit it with his horse's bridle for attacking his dog. It can also jump almost 7 feet into the air and is a good swimmer.

Cassowaries are eaten in parts of New Guinea. This close relative of the emu, however, is sought after by exotic bird collectors.

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