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The Emu War: When Australia Lost A War Against Birds

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Some time ago we told you about one of the most ridiculous wars in history, the “War of the eggs” of 1863. Many of you have let us know, however, that there was another war even more embarrassing than the first: the Emu War, when Australia lost its battle against birds. Let’s see what it’s about.

It all began after the conclusion of World War I in 1918. Veterans of World War I were assigned land to engage in agriculture in Western Australia. Unfortunately, however, due to the Great Depression in 1929 many veteran peasants saw the price of wheat drop steeply and, if not supported, threatened the government not to deliver their raw material anymore.

The problems did not end here, because 20,000 emus arrive in the territory that migrated to this area after the end of the reproductive season. This place was perfect for the birds, but their great numbers consumed and destroyed many crops. Not only that, they also damaged the fences around them, allowing other wild animals to enter.

The desperate farmers turned to the government and asked to use heavy artillery (such as rifles and machine guns) against birds. The Defense Minister, George Pearce, accepted but provided that the weapons were to be used only by military personnel and that farmers would pay food, housing and ammunition for soldiers.

The military began operations in 1932. The military forces were led by Major Meredith of the 7th Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery and the soldiers were equipped with two Lewis machine guns and 10,000 shots. The first attempts were not as fruitful as hoped and, indeed, the birds when surrounded tended to divide into smaller groups, so as to make enemy attacks difficult.

Things did not go any better and, after six days, only 50 emu had been killed. Major Meredith, surprised by the tenacity of the emus, compared them to the Zulu warriors of South Africa for their speed. After the military re-organized themselves, they managed to kill in two days, on 13 November 1932, about 40 emu. On December 10, the death count was 986 emu with 9860 bullets and, according to Major Meredith, 2,500 were fatally wounded.

The problem was not solved in any way and in 1934, 1943 and 1948 farmers again asked for help from the government… who decided to refuse the requests. A system of sizes was then put in place that worked very well: 57,034 sizes were collected in a single period of 6 months, but the situation did not improve the same (even in the United States there was a similar plague, but because of squirrels

The emus were never defeated and currently there are about 600,000-700.00 live specimens in Australia.

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