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Wildlife group says emu relocation could be a death sentence

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There has been a flock of support for an emu in a conservation park, after formal complaints were reportedly made about it.

Droves of people took to social media with messages of support for the bird in Parklands Conservation Park, amid fears it could be relocated to a farm and killed for meat.

Two horse riders reportedly complained to the Department of Environment and Science after their encounter with it, while the boss of a local trail-riding group has told Sunshine Coast News that the emu poses a risk and does not belong there.

But Wildlife Rescue Sunshine Coast CEO Claire Smith said ‘Norbit’, also known as ‘Fluffy’, was a much-loved creature in the area.

“I think 99.99 per cent of people enjoy going to the park and seeing Fluffy,” she said.

“He has been running with the Nambour Park Run group for a long time and is like their mascot.

“Everybody in Nambour knows Fluffy, and people from around the country come to Nambour just to run with him.

“There’s been a lot of support for him on Facebook community pages, including from horse riders who don’t have an issue with him.”

The photogenic emu at the parkland. Picture: Steve Roberts

Recent objections to the emu followed complaints about it in 2019, which Ms Smith said prompted a wave of “viral support”, and the issue “eventually blew over”.

Another complaint was reportedly made last year.

Ms Smith believed multiple complaints might lead to Fluffy being relocated to an emu farm and killed for meat.

“If people keep up their complaints, Fluffy could be removed and sent to an emu farm, where emus only live until they are about five to seven years old (the ideal age for meat),” she said.

“Fluffy is already six or seven, so it would be a death sentence for him.”

She said emus were farmed for meat and more, in Australia and overseas.

“Emu sausages, emu burgers … and there’s also emu oil that you can get from the fat of an emu that can apparently help with arthritis,” she said.

Ms Smith said Fluffy and his brother ‘Morton’ were frequent visitors to the parklands.

She said they had been in the area for some time, after their previous owners essentially let them go.

“Morton isn’t interested in hanging out with people or horses and tends to keep to himself, but Fluffy is very special,” she said.

They spend much of their time in the park during autumn and winter, and at a nearby property during spring and summer.

Meanwhile, former Sunny Coast Trail Horse Riders president Patricia Croft said the emu at parklands was a risk to park-goers and it did not belong there.

It was her opinion that it was a “problem to horse riders”, who were “very concerned about it” being in the area.

“It is a danger to our horses and most of the riders I know don’t go there any more,” she said.

“We (club members) don’t go there because there’s a risk of an accident to a horse rider.

“Most horses, if they see something they haven’t seen before, they’re going to get worried and anxious and react.”

Trail riding is a popular pastime on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Shutterstock

She said there have been “quite a few incidents” involving recreational riders and the emu in the past.

“Horses have been spooked and people have come off,” she said.

“The view of most horse riders is that that emu should not be there.”

Ms Croft, who was not speaking on behalf of the club, said the emu also posed a danger to mountain bike riders, joggers and hikers.

“It comes right up to people. It could attack them or it could get a fright and run over the top of them,” she said.

“I wouldn’t want an animal on the loose there while I walk with my children.”

Ms Croft has not lodged a formal complaint about the emu but the club did “put in a request some time ago” to the department to address the issue.

She said the emu should be moved.

“They (the department) should come and pick it up and take it to a zoo or release it in the wild,” she said.

“For it to be amongst people, where it is becoming more dependent on humans to feed it, instead of living a natural life amongst its own kind, that’s cruel and out of place.

“It would be a simple enough thing to do, to catch him and take him to one of the zoos or into the wild where there are other emus.”

Ms Smith said horse riders who had an issue with Fluffy should ride elsewhere.

“There are lots of alternatives for riders: lots of other parks and rides,” she said.

“If you know your horse is flighty, don’t go to a park where there might be an emu.

“It’s not fair that Fluffy should be under the spotlight yet again, with the potential to be removed, because a couple of people had an encounter with him that wasn’t positive.

“And let’s face it, a couple of hundred years ago we would have had emus here on the Coast and horses wouldn’t have been roaming around inside that area.”

Fluffy gets acquainted with the camera, with Micheal Hole of production business Girl Director.

She said park-goers were warned about the possibility of encountering emus.

“There’s a sign on the gate before you go in,” she said.

“So it’s not like people can say they didn’t expect it.

“You don’t complain after you were told there was an emu in the park.”

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A DES spokesperson confirmed “a report” about the emu was received from the public on August 14.

“Rangers attended the conservation park after the report was received, but the emu was not located,” they said.

The spokesperson also said there was a clear message at the entrance to the park, cautioning visitors about the possible danger there.

“Signage is at the park, warning users of the potential risk posed by this emu over the breading season,” they said.

“The signs are at the Radar Hill Road car park and the Rocky Creek Forest Road entry.”

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

The spokesperson said emus were protected and people were urged to stay away from them.

“Emus can be found across Queensland and a small number of emus are regularly seen by rangers and visitors within Parklands Conservation Park,” they said.

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

“Rangers continue to monitor the health and behaviour of emus within the park.”

Do you have an opinion to share? Submit a Letter to the Editor at Sunshine Coast News via news@sunshinecoastnews.com.au. You must include your name and suburb.

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