Emus Take Over Australian Town


Driven from the Outback by drought, hungry emus have strutted into the town of Longreach, Queensland. Residents are worried about the large bird’s safety—as well as their own. (National Geographic Newswatch)

Use our resources to understand the far-reaching impact of droughts.

Discussion Ideas

  • Emus are a type of bird. They are primary consumers, meaning they forage for seeds and plants. Why in the world are residents of Longreach worried about (mostly) vegetarian birds?! Review the Nat Geo News blog and watch the short video for some hints.
    • Emus are BIG birds, second only to ostriches in size. They can be as tall as 2 meters (6 feet) and weigh as much as 60 kilograms (130 pounds). Emus have extremely strong legs—strong enough to kick off dingoes, which hunt them in the wild. Their large feet have three sharp claws.
    • Emus are flightless—they cannot fly away when startled or frightened.
    • Emus are wild animals, and may carry diseases that could be harmful to people and pets.
    • Emus are searching for food and water. The Nat Geo News blog says that they have been spotted drinking from puddles and foraging in local gardens. They could possibly compete with pets or other local animals (such as ducks or geese) for water resources, and destroy lawns or gardens.
    • The emus that have invaded Longreach are not used to living in an urban environment. They have not been conditioned to live with people or, as the video and Nat Geo News blog make clear, cars. An emu-car collision could not only prove fatal for the bird, but could severely damage a car and possibly cause injury.
  • The Nat Geo News blog says that the emus were driven into the town by drought. What is a drought, and how do you think emus would be affected by it? Read more about drought in our terrific encyclopedic entry.
    • A drought is a long period where an area does not experience enough precipitation to support its ecosystem. Plants native to the woodland areas where emus usually live have not been able to survive Queensland’s extended drought. Emus are looking for food. “[T]he emus are just desperately seeking something to eat and a bit of greenery, so they are marching in and getting it wherever they can,” says a naturalist quoted in the Nat Geo News blog.
  • What are some other reasons wild animals might interact with urban communities? Take a look at our videos, “Gator Wild” and “Bear Woman” for examples of how local communities are forced to interact with wild animals.
    • The most familiar reasons wild animals interact with urban and suburban communities is a loss of habitat. As human communities sprawl into areas that were once wild habitat, people have had more frequent (and sometimes dangerous) encounters with animals such as alligators or mountain lions.
    • Wild animals may also take advantage of garbage bins or other easily accessed food sources. Once a wild animals locates a safe, reliable food source, they can be difficult to eradicate. Hungry animals might include bears, baboons, and boars.
    • Human communities often offer safer shelters than natural habitats. Penguins in South Africa seek out storm drains to safely breed and care for their chicks.

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