What is your favourite wild animal?
22 Nov 06
It would be the emu, and although not wild in the usual sense of being vicious the emu is interesting. The only country where emus are found naturally is Australia and it lives throughout the continent, ranging from coastal regions to high in the Snowy Mountains. The emu is rarely found in rainforest or very arid areas. At one time they were found in Tasmania but sadly were exterminated soon after Europeans arrived. Two dwarf species of emus that lived on Kangaroo Island and King Island also became extinct. Today, Emus are not found in heavily populated regions, in particular along the east coast. Despite this loss in some areas, Emu numbers may have increased since European settlement. The provision of water for domestic stock, together with the Emu's ability to reproduce rapidly, has favoured its survival. It is estimated that the Emu population is 625,000-725,000, with 100,000-200,000 in Western Australia and the majority of remaining populations in New South Wales and Queensland. Emus eat fruits, seeds, growing shoots of plants, insects, other small animals, and animal droppings. They move within their range according to climatic conditions. If sufficient food/water is present they will stay in one area. Where these resources are more variable, Emus move as needed, and can move hundreds of kilometres, sometimes at rates of 15-25km per day. Most people see Emus along roadsides, near fences or other barriers, giving the impression of close association. However, Emus are not really sociable, except for young birds, which stay with their father. Their calls consist of booming, drumming and grunting. Booming is created in an inflatable neck sac, and can be heard up to 2km away. Emus nest in winter and the male and female stay together for about about five months, which includes courtship, nest building and egg-laying. The female lays 5-15 eggs, measuring 130x90mm, are laid at intervals of 2-4 days. These are dark bluish-green when fresh, becoming lighter with exposure to the sun. The shells are thick, with paler green and white layers under the dark outer layer. The female dominates the male during pair formation but once incubation begins, the male becomes aggressive to other Emus, including his mate. The female wanders away and leaves the male to perform all the incubation. Sometimes she will find another mate and breed again. The male sits on the nest for 55 days without drinking, feeding, defecating or leaving the nest. During this time, eggs often roll out of the nest and are pulled back in by the male. Newly hatched chicks are cream-coloured with dark brown stripes. They leave the nest at 2-7 days when they are able to feed themselves. Young birds stay close together and remain with the male for four months, finally leaving at about 6 months. During this period, the stripes fade and the downy plumage is replaced by dull brown feathers. Emus are nearly fully grown at one year, and may breed at 20 months. The emu eggshells of infertile eggs, are suitable for carving. Sun-bleached eggs are generally those that have not hatched and are left in the nest after the male and young have left. Bleaching takes about three months.