The last of the Coastal Emus

The emus across the Clarence Valley and Bungawalbin areas are the very last of a species that once roamed across much of the east coast of Australia. The coastal emus have evolved in isolation from the common, western emu with DNA analysis indicating these remaining birds are unique and genetically disjunct from inland emus – the closest being west of the Great Dividing Range around 300kms west.

Coastal Emu Recovery Program brochure.

Once common, over 200 years the number of emus on the coast has dwindled as human settlement and development has spread. The decline is the result of immense pressure from a range of threats – common to many flora and fauna – but exasperated by core aspects of the emu’s ecology: they are flightless; they are ground nesting; they are large, mobile and wide-ranging. Issues such as habitat loss, barriers to movement, predation by feral pests, degradation of coastal ecosystems with weeds and wildfire and other disturbances during nesting and breeding season are taking their toll.

The coastal zone of the Clarence-Richmond Lowlands comprises a large, connected, diverse and largely undeveloped corridor that provides the habitat to support the last of the coastal emus.

Watch the short two-minute Save the Coastal Emu film.

Keystone species

Much more than just another bird, the emus play a crucial role in eating and dispersing fruits and seeds – including many traditional Indigenous bushfoods - far and wide across a coastal landscape that has evolved to comprise some of the most diverse coastal forests in the world. Many plants are dependent on the emu for germination and distribution of their seeds over distances of up to 50 kilometres - no other species can fill that vital role. This critical ecological function maintains healthy and diverse bushland across the landscape providing habitat for other wildlife.

The demise of the emu has implications for the exceptionally diverse suite of flora and fauna across the region and may be an indicator of declining ecosystem health. Consequently, however, any actions instigated to protect and enhance the coastal emus and their habitat will also have broad benefits to biodiversity at the landscape scale.

Coastal Emu Alliance

The establishment of the Coastal Emu Alliance has been vital in creating an independent, voluntary, collaborative approach to coastal emu conservation involving government, landowners, environment groups and the broader community. After several years of knowledge sharing, research and planning, the Alliance is committed to moving ahead with implementing strategic actions to restore habitat, reduce threats and create conditions that will halt the decline of the coastal emus and improve biodiversity across the landscape.

Read the Coastal Emu Business Case for more detail.

 

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