A plan to allow a group of Australia’s emus to safely cross busy highways via purpose-built tunnels has been rejected because the native birds have “little brains” and are incapable of learning to use the crossings.
Australian road officials have been considering ways to save a coastal emu habitat in northern New South Wales from the impact of a proposed highway which will cut through the birds’ territory. The emu, one of the world’s largest birds, can run at speeds of more than 30 miles per hour but has come under threat in recent years from drought and land clearing.
Gary Whale, from a local bird group called Clarence Valley Birdos, said the proposed highway upgrade would lead to the extinction of the region’s emus.
“They need a certain critical number to survive and if you cut them in half, and have half on either side of this new road, then it virtually guarantees their extinction,” said.
The state’s Roads and Maritime Service has proposed underground tunnels to help protect the emus – a measure which has been used to save koalas and reptiles. Elsewhere in Australia, authorities have built suspension rope bridges for others animals such as possums.
However, environmentalists believe underpasses will not save the emus, which lack the intelligence to use them. The population in the area is now numbered at around 120.
“Emus are big birds with little brains,” Mr Whale said.
“There is no evidence that emus have ever gone through an underpass … Farmers open their gate to try and encourage them to go out. Five meters away the emu is butting at a five-strand fence, but can’t work out that there is an opening there that it can get through.” …