Australia’s worst drought in a generation is driving flocks of emus into an outback mining town in a desperate hunt for food and water, an animal rescue unit in the town of Broken Hill said.
The large, flightless birds are sometimes sighted in the town, 935 kilometres (580 miles) west of Sydney, but not in the numbers being seen amid a winter drought that has turned the state of New South Wales into a dust bowl.
“We used to have the regulars, probably about five or six,” said Emma Singleton, spokeswoman for Broken Hill Council’s Rescue and Rehabilitation of Australian Native Animals unit.
“Now they’re actually walking down our main street. We’re seeing mobs of them,” she said.
“We’ve had 14 on a sporting oval. They’ve been out there for weeks – the locals in that area are giving them food and water.”
The rescue unit doesn’t try to chase the birds off the streets. Instead the council is just warning residents to watch out for the animals.
Being hit by road traffic is becoming an increasing risk, with five emus hit in the past week alone.
“Our biggest concern at the moment is dog attacks on them,” Singleton said.