WTF Fun Fact 13345 – The Australian Emu War

You may have learned about quite a few deadly conflicts in school, but have you ever heard about the Australian Emu War? Also called the Great Emu War in Western Australia, it was exactly what it sounds like – a war against emus. As in the animals.

The origins of the Australian Emu War

The Great Emu War occurred in Western Australia in 1932. It was a conflict between Australian farmers and a large population of emus. Emus are flightless birds native to Australia, in case you didn’t know.

This war was no joke. An uncontrolled emu population began to encroach on farmlands, damaging crops, and creating economic problems for the farmers. In response, the farmers requested military assistance to deal with the emu infestation.

According to Atlas Obscura (cited below):

“Western Australian farmers had been facing hard times with their crops following the Great Depression, and their difficulties increased tenfold with the arrival of some 20,000 emus migrating inland during their breeding season. The birds had been protected as a native species until 1922, but now that they were classified as ‘vermin,’ all bets were off.”

The Australian government actually deployed soldiers armed with machine guns to combat the emus. , They saw the animals as a threat to agriculture. However, emus are also fast and agile. That makes them difficult to eradicate with weapons.

A war of futility

One might think the mismatch was the result of humans having the advantage of deadly weapons. But it was really the emus who had the upper hand.

To top it off, emus don’t want to fight. So when they hear gunfire, they run. That makes them much harder to target. It also had the effect of separating the battalions into smaller and smaller groups to go after the scattering emus. That’s just bad military planning.

In the end, the army realized that using precision weapons was ineffective and called off the operation. The emus won.

The Emu War has become symbolic of human struggles against the forces of nature and the limitations of technology in dealing with wildlife. It was no doubt a humbling experience for the military.

Eventually, the government turned to other – less violent – measures. They erected fences to protect farmlands from emu intrusion.

So, it turns out violence wasn’t the answer.

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Source: “In 1932, Australia Started an ‘Emu War’—And Lost” — Atlas Obscura

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