When Barbara Linley found a large male emu reduced to roadkill at her front gate she became determined to redouble her efforts to help the endangered species.
- The coastal emu is regarded as genetically distinct from other emus
- Less than 50 of the birds remain, clustered around the Clarence and Richmond Valley
- Government programs and community action are moving ahead to try to save the species
The resident of Brooms Head on the far north coast of New South Wales has lodged a petition with the Roads and Maritime Service to reduce the speed limit from 100 kilometres per hour to 80 along Brooms Head Road.
Fewer than 50 of the coastal emus remain, scattered in the area around Brooms Head, and a separate population numbering only a handful in bushland at Bungawalbyn.
Efforts to save the remaining emus are now picking up pace.
The Clarence Distillery at Yamba has got on board with fundraising for the emus, launching a vodka to support the cause.
Clarence Valley Council natural resource management coordinator Reece Luxton said the emus were recognised as genetically separate from their cousins in the rest of Australia.
Mr Luxton said they looked similar, but the coastal emu was smaller in stature, most likely an adaptation to allow it to move more easily through the bushland that was its traditional habitat.
These days the animals are most often seen in the cane fields around the lower Clarence Valley, and it is not uncommon to spot a mob crossing Brooms Head Road.
Mr Luxton said the emus ranged long distances, helping to disperse native seeds throughout the environment.
Clarence Valley Council has established a register where people can report sightings while working with landholders to install fauna-friendly fencing.
The council is also working to reduce other threats such as predation and vehicle strikes.
“We can’t state how important that is, so we are going to do our best to support this population.”
Funding hopes to protect remaining emus
The federal government has committed $150,000 over the coming year to protect the emus under its Saving Our Species (SOS) program.
At Bungwalbyn, the local Landcare group has secured a bushfire recovery grant to help restore habitat in that area.
Landcare president and filmmaker Jimmy Malecki said he was hopeful the efforts of the communty and authorities could bring the emus back from the brink.
Mr Malecki has been capturing the emus on camera to help create a film for SOS, and he has a documentary project in development.
“I think there is always hope in saving species, and with a resurgence of people getting involved in helping the coastal emu I think we really do have a chance,” he said.
Losing coastal emus a personal blow
Yaegl knowledge holder William Walker said heading into winter, the emu constellation in the Milky Way raised its head, showing it was time to gather emu eggs.
Mr Walker said the emus would once range further west, across Yaegl country.
He said losing the emus felt like a personal blow.
“To see your totem die, it’s like seeing your parents or brothers or sisters die. That’s how much connection Aboriginal people have to animals around Australia.”
Mr Walker said authorities needed to arrest the decline of the emus.