Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Australians hit by Cyclone Yasi warned to stay away from deadly giant birds

[cassowaries_11.jpg]Australians trying to rebuild in the wake of Cyclone Yasi have been warned to stay away from cassowaries – huge flightless birds with claws that can disembowel a human – on the hunt for food after their habitat was destroyed by the storm.

"Cassowaries that come to expect food from humans can become aggressive and dangerous."

The warning comes after several cassowaries were spotted close to towns following Cyclone Larry, which hit the same stretch of coast in 2006. After the storm, one third of the population of cassowaries died, and conservationists fear that without intervention the same could happen.

Bob Irwin, a conservationist and the father of late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, said it could take 18 months for the rainforest to grow back and that in that time scores of cassowaries could starve to death.

"As well as losing their food they are losing their homes so they will be very disoriented.

"Like any other animal, if you interfere with them there could be a risk, but the main threat is to the birds themselves."

While the birds, which resemble emus, are known to be highly aggressive if approached, there is only one documented human death caused by a cassowary.

In 1926 Philip McClean, 16, was killed after he and his brother attempted to beat a cassowary to death. The bird fought back, charging at McClean and knocking him down and slashing his neck with a claw. ...

via Australians hit by Cyclone Yasi warned to stay away from deadly giant birds - Telegraph.

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