The Great Emu War of 1932

Emus are large, flightless birds related to ostriches, kiwis, and cassowaries. They are found (in the wild) only in Australia. They lay about 8 eggs in a breeding season, which is in winter. The male will incubate the eggs for 58-61 days. Then the chicks will normally take 2 years to mature. During the nonbreeding season, emus tend to gather in flocks and may travel hundreds of kilometers (1 kilometer = 0.62 miles). A full grown emu is the second largest/heaviest living bird, standing at 5-6 ft tall and can weigh over 100 lbs. There are currently more than 630,000 adult emus in the world. An emu's diet consists of seeds, fruits, flowers, and young shoots. Emus can also survive getting shot multiple times.

After WWI, veterans were given farmland by the Australian government. Then emus found the wheat they were growing. They would break into the fields and start eating the wheat. When the emus left, other animals were able to come in and eat the leftovers. This left the farmers without any crops. This was also in the middle of an economic crisis. In 1932, the farmers went to their Minister of Defense, George Pearce, and wanted to declare war on the emus. Pearce agreed as long as the farmers payed for it and he wouldn't take any blame if it went wrong. 

Major G.P.W Meredith and his men were sent with 2 Lewis machine guns to hunt emus in Western Australia. The first battle took place at Campion in November. When the men spotted the emus from a distance, they started firing. The emus responded by splitting into several smaller groups and started running in every direction. According to the video I watched, the men only killed a number of birds, but the vast majority got away. The men then tried getting closer to another mob (group of emus), but their guns jammed and only 12 emus were killed.The men then moved farther south because the emus were supposed to be tamer. They then decided to put a machine gun on a truck and shoot the emus from it. It failed. 

Pearce was harshly criticized by Parliment. HIs opposition even suggested handing out medals to the emus. Pearce then called off the operation, but 4 days later, farmers convinced him to start it again.

Meredith and his men learned how to fight the emus and were able to kill 300 per week. Pearce ended the operation again after killing 1,000 emus. He went to Parliment and declared victory, but Parliment brought up the fact that there they only killed 5% of the emus. In order to kill that many emus, the army used 10,000 rounds of ammunition. This means that they used roughly 10 rounds per confirmed kill. Parliment declared the emus the winner of the Great Emu War of 1932. After the war, a bounty system was set in place and was somewhat successful.

In my opinion, this was a stupid war. All they had to do was make better fences. If they were going to kill the emus, they should have only shot once they got to close to the farms. This would have taught the emus and other animals that the farms were not a safe place to eat. 

And throughout all of this, the emu was Australia's national bird!

Emu.jpg?s=1500x700&q=85 This is an emu

1. Do you think this war was worth fighting?

2. If Australia restarted this war today, how do you think it would go?

3. What are other solutions to the emu problem you can think of?

4. Did you know about this?


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  • Loved this topic! Well done Matthew!!

  • I am not sure if this should even count as a war because it was kind of just like a battle. I do not think that amunition would be the best way to go based on it's price but if there are other ways to kill it then it might have been successful. I think that it would have to be trial and error to find fences that couldn't be broken through. I had no idea about any of this and I find it very funny.

    • There was a war that lasted, at most, 45 minutes, so this does count as a war. 

  • I think this war was worth fighting until a certain point. If they restarted this war today, they would do better because weapons and machines have evolved so much. Other solutions could include forcing the emus to a different point in the country.

    • I agree that war would have gone better for the humans in modern day.

  • I've known about the emu war for awhile. I don't think the way they did it was very efficient. Some people from the military put a machine gun on the back of a jeep and would go around blasting the birds. Most of them would escape due to them being fast and tough enough to survive more than one bullet.

    • It's cool that you knew about this war. I agree that the army wasn't very efficient.

  • I didn't know about this "Emu war" but I don't think it was worth it, they are just going to keep coming back and it's not logical to keep killing them, it's just a waste in the end. A more logical way to get rid of them would be to just relocate them so they don't have to keep hurting them. 

    • I agree that killing the emus was not a logical long-term solution.

  • This war was not worth fighting as it just wasted materials and most likely money. If the Great Emu War happened today, most likely the emu's would have many losses to their population.

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