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Cassowary That Killed Its 75-Year-Old Owner to Hit the Auction Block

By Audrey.McNamara@thedailybeast.com (Audrey McNamara)
Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty

The large, flightless bird that attacked and killed its 75-year-old owner in Florida earlier this month can now be yours—for the right price.

The killer cassowary, along with dozens of other dangerous and endangered animals owned by Marvin Hajos before his death, is up for auction this Saturday by Gulf Coast Livestock in Madison, Florida.

The animals are being sold in accordance with the last wishes of Hajos, whose cassowary attacked him after he took a spill on his farm in Alachua County, authorities said.

“My understanding is that the gentleman was in the vicinity of the bird and at some point fell. When he fell, he was attacked,” Deputy Chief Jeff Taylor told The Gainesville Sun at the time of the incident.

The sale’s auctioneer, Scotty Wilson, says they expect about 100 people from across the country to attend Saturday. The media, however, are not welcome.

“Anyone seen video taping in any capacity will be deemed trespassing and will be escorted out by security,” a post advertising the sale warned. “Your video equipment may or may not be confiscated until all video recordings are distroyed (sic). Please do not comprise (sic) our position.”

Well over 100 animals are up for auction, including two adult cassowaries, five ring-tailed and ruffed lemurs, 26 marmosets, an emu, and a slew of macaws. The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List classifies lemurs as “critically endangered.”

According to the San Diego Zoo, the cassowary is “considered the most dangerous bird in the world.”

“Each 3-toed foot has a dagger-like claw on the inner toe that is up to 4 inches… long!” the zoo’s website reads. “The cassowary can slice open any predator or potential threat with a single swift kick. Powerful legs help the cassowary run up to 31 miles per hour… through the dense forest underbrush.”

Cassowaries are native to Australia and New Guinea and are most closely related to the emu. They can stand up to six feet tall and jump “nearly 7 feet straight up into the air and swim like a champ, so the bird is quite good at fending off threats or escaping danger,” according to the zoo.

At the time of his death, Hajos was breeding the birds, which are sought after by exotic animal collectors. Because he was keeping the birds for “agricultural purposes,” he did not need to have the license otherwise required by Florida law to personally house the birds.

“Mr. Hajos did not—was not required to have a license to own cassowaries because of an agricultural exemption in the captive wildlife rule which states that if the ratite is being used for breeding, or ranching, or propagation purposes for agricultural use, that a Class II permit is not required,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision Law Enforcement spokesperson Robert Keppler told The Daily Beast.

Cassowaries are defined as “Class II” wildlife in Florida, as they can pose a danger to people. “Substantial experience and specific cage requirements must be met. Permits are required for public exhibition, sale or personal possession of Class II wildlife,” according to the FWC website.

According to Wilson, everyone who attends his auction is required to pre-register and possess a captive wildlife license or permit.

Keppler would not go into detail about any enforcement actions “that are, or are not, in place” for regulating the sale.

“We wouldn’t tell you… what our captive wildlife investigators plan on doing in order to make sure that Florida’s captive wildlife rules and regulations are being followed,” Keppler said. “But we do monitor the possession and ownership of captive wildlife in Florida to ensure that illegal possession does not occur.”

He added that “the sale of captive wildlife to and from properly licensed individuals is not prohibited in Florida.”

When asked if attendees would be warned one of the birds has killed a man, Wilson assured that “full disclosure” would be made.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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