The Emu War, also known as the Great Emu War took place in Australia in 1932 under the context of nuisance wildlife management military operation. The mission behind this operation was to manage the population of emus. Today, Emu War Casualties & Facts!
1. Farmers’ Protests
In 1922, over 20,000 emus were recorded to be stomping the farmlands and eating crops. It was the time of the great depression happened and the price of crops fell drastically making the farmers’ lives harder. Due to the lack of ammunition to kill the emus, the farmers threatened the government that they will abandon their lands. It was around 1932 when the government deployed armed soldiers to kill emus because of the pressure caused by farmers. (See 4 Interesting Black Friday History Myths and Facts)
2. Rise in Emu Population
Emus migrate from the coastal region to inland regions every year for breeding. In 1932, there was a tremendous rise in the emu population so much so that it was recorded to be around 20,000. These birds thought that the farmlands were the best place for breeding but this preference wasn’t favorable for farmers. At that time farming was already difficult since the government didn’t provide any subsidies that were initially promised. Mostly the farmers were military veterans and the lands were given to them for cultivating crops.
3. Emu War Facts
After several days of glitches, rain delays, and failed ambushes, an estimated 1,000 emus were seen. The Australian army unloaded two Lewis machine guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition. The guns jammed and the emus escaped with 12 victims. Hidden in the sight of the gunmen, the emus waited for the group to make their way. They seemed to have deciphered that the guns were out of reach, and the majority of the birds escaped the ensuing confrontation with their lives unscathed. An eager local tried to help but was attacked by emus, which ran at 40 miles per hour and scattered in all directions. The emu war casualties were far beyond expectations!
4. Australian Emu War Casualties
Australian troops began ambushing herds of emus in the countryside, as detailed below:
- On 13 November 1932, the military was able to achieve some success in the first two days with 40 emus killed.
- On November 15, they proved less successful, but by December 2, the army had killed more than 100 emus in a week.
- Between 13 November and 10 December 1932, 100 emus were killed.
- Major Meredith claimed they killed 986 emus with 9860 rounds. He also claimed that 2,500 injured birds had died from the injuries they suffered.
- A second campaign by Major Meredith on November 13, 1932, killed 40 emus.
5. Field Reports & Machine Guns
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Major Meredith strapped a machine gun to the truck and chased the emus. The truck couldn’t keep up with the emu and the bumpy ride made it impossible for Meredith to fire a single shot during the chase. The emus were smart enough to anticipate their range when the soldiers aimed and fired. When the locals tried to chase them away, they broke into smaller groups, making it impossible for the soldiers to reach them with their weapons. Weighing his 30-pound weapon on a farm wagon made it even harder. Dejected, Meredith moved his troops back. (See How Did the Americans Win the Revolutionary War?)
6. Second Emu War
This was the second successful military operation against the emus, and just a few days after the end of the initial withdrawal in November 1932. While Major Meredith was preparing for an ambush at a local dam, 1,000 emus were spotted heading towards them. On the morning of November 4th 1932, the emus moved from the trees towards the water. This time, they waited for the birds to enter the wild before opening fire.
7. Victims of the Emu War
Meredith’s official report stated none of his men died or were injured. On the second try from November 12 to December 2, his official report stated that the emu war casualties were 986 emus which were killed with 9860 rounds at the rate of exactly 10 rounds per confirmed kill. In addition, he claimed that 2500 birds were wounded and died as a result of injury. The emu war casualties were only emus. But above all, the local farmers were the victims because of the emus. (See How To Tip A Cow?)
8. After Effects of Emu War
- By 1930s, people began to build fences to keep the birds out of farms.
- Some people in the UK heard about the war and criticized Australia for killing emus. They called it extermination of the rare emu.
- After the first war, the farmers kept insisting the government kill the birds again in 1934, 1943, and 1948. For the sake of the farmers, the government formed a bounty system instead. This system helped the farmers to kill a total of around 57,034 emus. The bounty award was claimed by the people who killed the emus. In short, Emu war casualties turned into a disaster. (See How Loud is a Silenced Pistol?)
9. The Efforts in the Media
In the following days, Major Meredith decided to move the birds, which were said to be well tamed. He compared the emus to the Zulus and commented on them as if they were wounded. The local media humiliated the army claiming that very few emus have died. Sir George Pearce pulled all military personnel out of line of fire. The Bounty system was established which made it profitable for the locals as well as the farmers.
10. Behind The Scenes
George Pearce was the person who approved the Great Emu War. He thought this would earn him a title of a hero. Pearce sent a camera crew to film all the events of the war. He ordered his men to bring back 100 emu skins to put their feathers in the hats. He knew that this operation could go wrong and he would face backlash, so he made the farmers sign an agreement with the state stating that he was not responsible for the outcome of the war. (See Why was Napoleon called The Little Corporal?)