The Emus of Potoroo and Cowsnest
by Alexandra Seddon
Luke at Potoroo Palace with Bib in the background
Ben at Cowsnest
Milly, the blind Bare-nosed Wombat and one of the Emu chicks
Larry and his adopted chicks
The three chicks - Beep, Bop and Lula
Bib, Ben and Luke…
Some years ago a Forestry bloke who was bulldozing in a pine forest near Bibenluke saw 3 emu eggs right in the path of his machine. He stopped, but no incubating male emu was in sight. He picked up the eggs and could hear small sounds inside them. He kept them warm under his shirt and brought them to Potoroo Palace.
We continued the incubation and they hatched! We had to replace their father by showing them how to forage and keeping them warm, especially at night. They grew. They joined staff for morning teas. They showed us how dangerous bits of plastic rubbish are because they always wanted to taste any bright things that they found in the grass or elsewhere.
We called them Bib, Ben and Luke, for obvious reasons (rescued near Bibenluke). When they grew larger, they were able to have their own enclosure down the back of Potoroo Palace. They were always happy to be hugged or hosed or played with.
After some time, Luke became possessive of Bib, and aggressive towards Ben. We took Ben into a separate enclosure, but he was always lonely. We thought perhaps we could find him a female mate and he could go to the 50 acre feral animal proof enclosure at Cowsnest.
Well, Ben was expertly caught and bundled up by Paula and Veronica. He travelled in the back of a car/van to Cowsnest. All went well while he was sitting there with his head covered, but about half way there, his head emerged.
Ben grew very enthusiastic about getting the rest of himself out. Luckily he reached Cowsnest and was released into his new huge area. It took him a week or two to relax, but he became very friendly with Sanctuary Handlers after a while and was easy to feed and monitor.
Meanwhile we were arranging with Belinda Donovan from Mudgeroo Emu Farm to collect a female emu. Cam made a beautiful wooden travelling box, but then after consultation with Belinda, had to make another larger one. Craig and Anna travelled up twice to Mudgeroo and all went well on the second trip and now Jennifer has joined Ben!
We are not sure whether Jennifer is male or female, but the courtship is respectful and very gradual, and we are sure there will be a good partnership before long.
Larry and his adopted chicks…
When we took over the old zoo and began Potoroo Palace in 2006, there were 3 emus shut in a smallish paddock. I opened the gate and since then they have had the run of the whole of the inner part of the Park. They have never hassled visitors or stolen sandwiches.
One of them, called Larry, searches out a pile of rocks each year and sits on them, as a male emu would with eggs for two months until the eggs hatch. We have felt great sympathy for him so we make sure that he has food and water each day within reach.
This year, we were given a very young lonely emu chick to care for. She was used to dogs (which could have spelled doom for her) and craved human company mostly and even sometimes settled for a blind wombat (Milly) as a friend.
Belinda Donovan of Mudgeroo Emu Farm gave us two little hand reared chicks who quickly made friends with the lonely one.
Then a miracle happened!
Larry got to know the chicks through a fence and then met them without the fence between.
It was love at first sight from both sides!
Larry immediately began throwing food to them. At night he sits down so that they can snuggle under him for warmth and comfort. By day he teaches them to forage.
Eventually we may be able to introduce the four of them to Ben and Jennifer in the 50 acre feral animal proof enclosure at the Cowsnest Sanctuary.
Much later on all the emus may be released to join the wild population. Emus in these coastal areas have dwindled in numbers over the last hundred or so years, so it could be very beneficial.
Cowsnest has extensive National Parks on two sides so it is an ideal release place.