The Straits Times
Published on Sep 05, 2012

Emu underpass plan to save threatened Australian bird


SYDNEY (REUTERS) - In Australia, the question is not why did the emu cross the road, but how? Australian road officials have proposed building emu underpasses beneath the east coast Pacific Highway so a population of endangered flightless emu can safely cross one of Australia's busiest and most dangerous roads.

But wildlife experts say the emu, the world's 3rd largest bird and one which can run as fast as 50kmh, is unlikely to use the underpasses. "Emus are big birds with little brains," said Mr Gary Whale of Birdlife Australia.

The New South Wales state roads authority said it was working on a plan to minimise the impact of a Pacific Highway upgrade on a small emu population on Australia's east coast. Between 20 and 40 people have died on the Pacific Highway each year over the last decade, prompting authorities to spend hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading the highway to get rid of accident prone "black spots".

But Birdlife Australia said the suggested new route of the highway would bisect emu foraging and breeding areas and endanger the lives of the emus in Clarence Valley. "It could see the extinction of the coastal emu," said Mr Whale.