As Australia struggles with its worst drought in over a decade, the impact is being felt across the board – especially on wild animals and birds. A lack of water and food in the wild is bringing hordes of emus into Australian cities in search of sustenance.
Residents of Broken Hill, a mining town in the province of New South Wales reported dozens of birds walking down the main street, heading into backyards as well as playgrounds. In May, the town of Peterborough reported that a mob of emu ate flowers left on graves in the local cemetery.
Emu have not been known to attack humans however they do pose a hazard on roads. There have already been five accidents reported in recent weeks due to a collision with roaming emu.
Sightings of emu are not a rare occurrence in Australian towns but their sheer numbers has caught animal welfare groups by surprise.
Animal workers are advising people that if they do want to help the birds then they should leave some water in spaces away from inhabited areas, in order to draw the birds away from the towns.
The emu is the second-largest living bird by height, and like its cousin – the ostrich, emu birds don’t fly. It is endemic to Australia where it is the largest native bird and can weigh up to 45kg. It also has a protected status so the native birds cannot be hunted in order to control their population.
Not just emu, domestic animals too have been feeling the pinch as farmers struggle to cope with the drought. Farmers in many parts of New South Wales and Queensland have been struggling to source hay, grain and cottonseed to feed their animals, with supplies coming from as far as Western Australia.
The Australian government declared New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, which produces about a quarter of the country's agricultural output, as officially entirely in drought on 8 August.
Parts of New South Wales have had the lowest rainfall on record, with less than 10mm of rain recorded in some areas in July.