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Pub Owner Says, ‘This Ain’t Sesame Street; No Big Birds Allowed!’

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Yakara Hotel and Pub in Southern Queensland is the kind of place where everybody knows your name, even if you’re a bird. The outback outpost, home to only eighteen permanent residents and two friendly emus, has become internet-famous for banning the two birds from the local pub. It seems that Emus, Carol and Kevin, wouldn’t listen to reason, and so publicans, Chris and Gerry Gimblett, had to enact the ban, with the help of their patrons. 

Carol and Kevin, who were raised by local Leanne Byrne, have been a friendly fixture at Yakara Hotel for years. They often snatched French fries or sipped coffee from pub-goers’ tables, craning their necks through the fence to the porch. (In 2019, Yakara’s Facebook page featured a photo of the birds with the comment, “they are always pinching something.”) While patrons have been good-natured about the birds snacking for free, the trouble began when Carol and Kevin learned how to climb the stairs and enter not just the pub, but the kitchen as well, leaving feathers and their droppings along the way. 

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One

Emus aren’t what you’d call picky eaters, on top of which these particular emus have become used to getting treats from humans. As Gerry told NPR, the birds had become quite assertive about their breakfast orders, for example, “when people are making toast in the annex, a head comes across, takes the toast and gobbles [the toast] up as it pops.” Beyond the food theft and sanitary concerns, Chris is also worried about both the patrons’ and birds’ physical safety, saying, “It is not safe to get between an emu and food; they have a sharp strong beak and their long neck can suck up food like a high powered vacuum cleaner,” and when startled, “[they] do a forward sprint whilst looking behind them” which is a recipe for disaster.

Word of the ban spread quickly across the globe after ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) reported on the duo’s antics. Former guests of the Yakara flocked to the hotel’s Facebook page to congratulate the Gimbletts on all of the publicity, reminisce about their visits to the beautiful town, and offer alternative solutions for Carol and Kevin. Facebook user Jan Skelton offered photo evidence of the coffee thieves with their beaks in her cup. Friend of the Gimbletts Daniel Kranz said, ”Kev can come and live with me! He can help me round the cattle up!” Commenters on the Twitter account for BBC’s Quite Interesting program also had some insights. One person, who has significant experience dealing with dangerous Australian animals said, “As a 60 year old Aussie, I can testify to dealing with deadly funnel-web spiders and brown snakes without much bother, however, I would never mess with an emu!”

Cuddly But Unwieldy Creatures 

Emus are generally known for their laid-back temperaments, which has helped them gain popularity as pets. Online forums for emu owners tout their affectionate behavior, with some evidence that emu chicks take to their handlers, much like ducks. In 2013, the now-defunct Camels and Friends website posted a video of two young emus alternately playing with and running from a battery-operated pet toy. The video, with over 1.2 million views, gathered gleeful comments from viewers, including a play-by-play from one: “Holy crap, that’s amazing. They’re not exactly afraid of it. They keep running towards it, they just don’t have the balls to get too close. And yet, they have to get closer. And they look so triumphant at the end. It must have been a good day for these guys.”

In 2017, a British woman purchased an emu egg online with the intent of raising it in her three bed, two bath suburban house. She incubated the egg until it hatched, but was shortly after reported by an anonymous concerned neighbor. According to the Mirror, Charlotte Harrison was asked to turn the chick, who she named Kevin, over to animal welfare because she did not have enough room to raise an exotic pet. Emus can grow to be in excess of six-foot tall, and are not meant to live in residential homes! 

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