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'Friendly' emu becomes local legend and running partner at conservation park

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An amiable emu appears to be making friends with people at a Sunshine Coast nature reserve, even joining one jogger on his trail runs.

The big bird is regularly seen at the Parklands Conservation Area, a popular spot for walkers, runners, horse riders and mountain bike riders near Nambour.

The emu has been dubbed ‘Fluffy’ by a running group that meets regularly at the entrance to the 655-hectare park.

Sarah Roberts shared a picture of the photogenic bird on social media late last month.

“My husband Steve took the photo at the Radar Hill Road car park,” she said.

“Fluffy quite often hangs out in this car park and welcomes bushwalkers, riders and runners before they head out on the trails.

“We’ve spotted Fluffy countless times, both on the trails and around the car park.

“He’s always been very friendly, but we don’t feed or pat him ever.”

Ms Roberts said her husband had even been joined by the emu while jogging through the reserve.

“Steve sees Fluffy there a lot,” she said.

“Fluffy will sometimes run alongside Steve and even race him.

“Steve used to get a bit nervous (about it) but he’s gotten used to him over the years.”

A couple of emus (not the ones in the parkland). Picture: Shutterstock

The Department of Environment and Science said, via its Parks and Forests website, that there are two emus “roaming the park”.

“They were hand-raised on adjoining land and are accustomed to being around people they know and can be inquisitive about visitors,” it said.

A DES spokesperson told Sunshine Coast News that rangers “continued to monitor the health and behaviour of emus within the park”.

The spokesperson urged people not to disturb them.

“Emus are a protected species and members of the public are reminded to keep their distance and never feed wild animals,” they said.

Parklands Conservation Park, to the eastern side of the Bruce Highway between Nambour and Bli Bli, is regarded as a valuable wildlife habitat, with eucalypt forests and rainforest gullies.

It was gazetted as a reserve in 2001 and became a conservation park.

The park is in line to host mountain biking events at the 2032 Olympic Games. Elements of the park and its surrounds would need significant modifications.

Details are yet to be revealed on what changes could be made to the park and its surrounds, in terms of infrastructure and track upgrades, and any possible effects that could have on the environment.

Olympic mountain biking is coming to Parklands. Picture: Shutterstock

It’s believed there were many emus on the Sunshine Coast during the mid-20th century, but few are seen in the rapidly developed region now.

It’s difficult to obtain detailed information on the number of emus in the region. Their conservation status is listed as ‘least concern’.

DES said “emus can be found across Queensland”, while Sunshine Coast Council said there was a small number of emus in its reserves, but it did not have any active programs that monitored populations.

Renowned Griffith University ecologist Professor Darryl Jones, who researches animal and human interaction, said little was known about emu numbers on the Sunshine Coast.

“I saw them in the national park north of Noosa some years ago but have heard nothing about them since,” he said.

The Australian Museum states that emus can be found almost everywhere in Australia and that they eat fruits, seeds, insects and other small animals. They can be 1.6m to 1.9m tall and can run up to 25km/h.

Wildlife Victoria says emus can live for about 10 years.

Sunshine Coast News was awaiting comment from UniSC and wildlife groups.

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