Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Great Australian Emu War

In 1932, Australia decided to solve it's Emu problem for good.


Image result for cute emu
Who would want to solve this cute guy?
After WWI, Australia was left with a bunch of veterans with nowhere to go. The Australian government decided that farming would be a great profession for all these fine young men; and since the interior of Australia was pretty much just a barren wasteland, where better to go farm? So, the government sent a bunch of dudes who had no idea how to farm out to inhospitable land, and told them to grow wheat, because the Great Depression was happening, and grain prices were plummeting (the Australian tactics to combat the Great Depression still baffle me.).

So the intrepid ex-soldiers go out into the middle of Australia, contending with harsh weather, feral camels, and other Australian bullshit to grow grain. Things are going...well, not exactly okay, but they're certainly going, until the emu's attack.

The emu is a large, ugly, flightless bird that have no sense of personal space. These birds migrate inland every year after mating in coastal regions, and boy were they happy when they got back inland to find that their homes had been improved. The emus were drawn to the nice, cultivated land, and the grain that grew thereon. Emus went pretty hard on the crops, and farmers were able to hold them off for a while, but eventually Emu numbers grew too great, and the cavalry was called in.

It wasn't literally a cavalry, it was more like a sizable chunk of the army armed with machine guns. The machine guns were the important bit, that's what the farmers really wanted. The farmers had seen machine guns at work in WWI, and figured that they would be just the tool for getting rid of their feathery nemesis'. The Australian government wasn't so keen on giving a bunch of civilians machine guns though, so they sent the army with them. And so the seemingly unequal fight began.

Image result for emu attack
This is why they needed solving. Holy shit.
The soldiers were pretty confident they could take the birds. George Pearce, the Australian Minister of Defense, even described the war as 'target practice'. However, upon first contact with the birds, they discovered that the mighty emu does not take extinction lying down. The soldiers started shooting, and the birds went nuts, running away in a disorganized chaos that makes the end of the chandelier scene from Phantom of the Opera look tame.

There were two major conflicts in this war, the first and the second. I guess when you're fighting birds you don't really need to name your battles. The first conflict went well for the Australians. They managed to kill a few emus without any loss of dignity (besides the inherent loss of dignity when you wage war on avians), it was the second conflict that was noteworthy.

Minutes into the conflict, the prized machine guns jammed, and the birds scattered, then went back to eating crops. The army tried mounting their guns on trucks, but, quite frankly, they shot like Stormtroopers, and couldn't hit a single emu. Except with their car. One emu did get tangled into the wheels of a truck, and, in a moment of final defiance, the bird corpse sufficiently messed up the truck enough that it veered off the road, taking down an innocent by-standing fence. The first collateral damage in what was turning out to be a bloody conflict.

By now the Army has killed maybe 200 emus, tops, and used up a quarter of their ammunition. When they started there was a grand total of 20,000 emus, so, as you might imagine, they're not looking so good, especially not to the government back home. What's better, is that they took a camera crew along with them, so everyone could see in stunning black and white how they were thoroughly humiliated by a group of birds. Unsurprisingly, the Australian government recalled the army, and admitted defeat. Emus: 1, Australia: 0.

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Sources

Atlas Obscura
Scientific America
Emu War

4 comments:

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  2. how absolutely terrifying are these birds. guns or no guns, i wouldn't want anywhere near them. no wonder the chivalry had to eat dirt. they look like vile creature and its better to create the distance while you can

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  3. Now that is the thing that I call a colossal blog. Wonderfully composed.
    VI

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