In another example of commercial emu farming gone wrong in Gujarat, at least 30 emus were found abandoned near the Nal Sarovar bird sanctuary, about 60 kilometers from Ahmedabad city. About 20 of these birds — the national bird of Australia — were caught by locals and officials of the forest department on Tuesday and shifted to an animal shelter in Ahmedabad.
An estimated 30-36 of these birds were physically transported in a vehicle before being abandoned at Nal Sarovar, forest officials at the sanctuary said. Eight of these birds were found dead, while some others are believed to be still at large, roaming in and around the sanctuary.
The birds were abandoned on Monday night. Some of them had even strayed inside the sanctuary premises and in nearby farms. “About 20 of these birds have been caught and handed over to the forest officials. We are not sure how many remain to be caught,” said Rahim Multani, president of Boats Owners Association at Nal Sarovar, a body that comprises locals who operate manually operated boats in the water body within the bird sanctuary.
One such abandoned emu was seen roaming inside the sanctuary by the representatives of The Indian Express who visited Nal Sarovar on Tuesday. Emu is the second largest flightless bird after ostrich. A native of Australia, these birds are found in grasslands and savannas in flocks and can run and swim. They feed on plants and some insects. However, in Gujarat, these birds are commercially bred for their eggs, meat and oil.
A teen, who was one of the youths who helped in capturing these birds, said, “These birds are tough to catch as they run. We used loops made out of ropes to catch them,” said 15-year-old Pratap Pather. “They can also hurt you with their legs,” he said, showing the injury on his hand caused while catching the birds.
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The birds were later transported out of the bird sanctuary to Asha Foundation, an NGO in Ahmedabad engaged in animal welfare, and currently sheltering over 70 emus at Hathijan locality.
“Every month, at least 10 of these birds come to us. No zoo or animal organisation is ready to accept them. These birds need about 900 grams of food daily which comprises vegetables and grains. The number of cases where emu farmers are abandoning the birds is on the rise,” said Harmesh Bhatt, who heads the Asha Foundation.
“Emus are being abandoned all across Gujarat as the farming of these birds is turning less productive and many of these birds are facing health issues. Last year in August, 30 emus were abandoned in Jambughoda forests in the Panchmahals district,” said a forest department official who did not wish to be named. Similarly, some of these birds were also found abandoned near Gandhinagar.
It takes at least Rs 8 lakh to set up an emu farm consisting of 10 pairs of emu birds. The annual cost to feed such a number of emus is over Rs 50,000. Experts connected with the emu farming business point out that too many Gujarati entrepreneurs got into commercial breeding without really understanding the business.