Eagle At Bird Show In Australia Attempts To Fly Off With Little Boy

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There is an interesting question of liability raised in a frightening encounter of a wedge-tailed eagle and a little boy at a wildlife show in central Australia.  The eagle tried to fly away with a terrified boy at a popular wildlife show in central Australia at the Alice Springs Desert Park. Fortunately the boy only suffered superficial injuries.  The question in torts is one of animal liability, though the laws in Australia are different.


Christine O’Connell from Horsham in Victoria state was visiting the park with her husband on 6 July when the attack occurred.

One theory is that the boy had attracted the eagle by “running his zipper up and down” as the eagle approached.

The park  issued a statement that “On Wednesday, 6 July, an incident occurred at the Alice Springs Desert Park where an eagle made contact with an audience member. A thorough investigation regarding the circumstances behind this incident is under way and the eagle will be removed from the show while this investigation is ongoing.”

We recently discussed animal liability with regard to the Disney alligator tragedy.  Notably, this week it was revealed that Disney had specifically warned its firefighters to stop feeding the alligators, a surprising practice that runs against every common warning on dealing with wild animals.  It will further the argument that the alligators were under Disney’s control or supervision.

Under the common law, there is strict liability for injuries caused by wild animals in your possession. However, that would raise the question of whether these alligators are in the legal possession or control of Disney since they occupy the lake. This was the issue in Woods-Leber v Hyatt Hotels of Puerto Rico (1997), Hyatt was found not to be strictly liable for an attack on its grounds by a rabid mongoose on a guest. It was not viewed as possessing the animal since wild animals could move freely on to the property. The same issue came up recently in the United States in the case of the woman who had her face ripped off by a neighbor’s pet chimpanzee and a case in Arizona involving a javelina.

The eagle in this case was part of the show and clearly under the control of the park.  If the eagle is deemed a wild animal, strict liability applies. Even if found to be a domesticated animal, it can be subject to strict liability if found to have a vicious history or disposition.  In any case, a strong argument might be made on the basis for negligence if a simple zipper can trigger an eagle attack. There is also the question of where small children should be seated. While they are often moved up front, that could be the highest risk area for children.

This is not the first time that eagles have taken an interest in small children in Australia:

13 thoughts on “Eagle At Bird Show In Australia Attempts To Fly Off With Little Boy

  1. I think the park is responsible for any damages. However, by taking the eagle out of the show immediately, they will mitigate some of the damages. From the photos it is impossible to see if the boy is moving his zipper or not and the eagle is going for the top of his hood. The boy is clearly too heavy for the eagle to carry.

  2. I think that if you go to a place where wild animals are living, you assume the risk that wild animals will follow their natural instincts. And if you take your children there, your negligence and assumption of risk should preclude any damages against the park. The kid wasn’t hurt, and his mother didn’t take any effort to protect him. I would have punched the damned bird or put myself over the kid’s body or done SOMETHING, or Pete’s sake!

  3. Disney is not responsible for alligators in the lake. The alligators have a right to live there. Disney needs to put up warning signs. No One From Nebraska Allowed.

  4. I’m glad the kid is OK- but this strikes me as funny!

    Like those old Far Side cartoons – trouble brewing. (Falconer’s club, MEET HERE! *tree line divide* Fourth Annual Tea Cup Poodle Fancier’s Picnic)

    I used to have a rabbit, and made him a nice run in the yard. When he was out in the summer, we had to hang out with him because the hawks…

  5. THE BEASTLY BABY
    by Richard Gorey

    “Then one day it was taken on a picnic.
    It was set on an exposed ledge some
    distance from where the food was.

    A few minutes later, a passing eagle
    noticed it there.
    The eagle, having never before been
    presented with this classic opportunity
    carried it off.

    The Eagle found keeping hold of it more
    difficult than he had expected.
    He attempted to get a further grip on it
    with his break.

    There was a wet sort of explosion,
    audible for several miles.
    And that, thank heavens! was the end
    of the Beastly Baby.

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