It can’t be easy being an emu in outback Australia at the best of times what with the heat and the perennial droughts.
But to be banned from your local pub for bad behaviour must now be added to the list of grievances inflicted upon the big birds.
Such is the problem Kevin and Carol – two emus in Yaraka, south of Longreach in western Queensland – now face after an edict was passed down by the only hotel in town last week.
Gerry Gimblett, who owns the Yaraka Hotel with her husband Chris, told Guardian Australia they were left with no other option after the birds’ recent “bad behaviour”.
“They’ve been stealing things from the guests, especially their food. They’d stick their heads in and pinch toast out of the toaster,” Gimblett explained.
“But the main reason we’ve banned them is their droppings. They’re enormous, very large and very smelly, and they created great stains,” she said.
The Yaraka Hotel in outback Queensland. Photograph: Chris Gimblett
Gimblett, who took over the pub after she retired as a teacher, installed a barrier – a piece of rope – across the hotel’s entrances last week after the “much-loved” emus began entering the pub and disrupting patrons.
Gimblett said the emus had become a tourist attraction after several eggs were hatched at the end of 2018, and while at one point there were nine emus in town, most had wandered away from town or been hit in accidents. Just two large emus remain, Kevin and Carol, who circle the area around the pub.
Leeanne Byrne, a Yaraka resident and frequent patron at the hotel, cared for the emus after they hatched.
She said they have grown to be as tall as her, and “when they stand up straight” they are more than 2m tall. She expects the pair to continue growing.
Byrne said that while she had cared for the emus for years, she understood the reasons behind the pub’s ban.
Photograph: Chris Gimblett
Despite the emu population shrinking to just two, Gimblett said they remained noticeable given there “are only about 16 other” human residents in Yaraka, which is about a 13-hour drive west of Queensland’s capital, Brisbane.
“We love them as part of the Yaraka community, but they’re not welcome inside any more.”
While Yaraka may not often gain the attention of the country, a group of National party politicians discovered the emu ban while on a trip through the western part of Queensland on Monday.
The minister for agriculture and deputy Nationals leader, David Littleproud, said he “thought the Yaraka locals were having me on” with the sign at the entrance about the emu ban, and posted a selfie with Kevin.
Despite the emus’ recent behaviour, the Yaraka Hotel has not experienced a drop off in visitors, with Gimblett telling Guardian Australia the caravan park outside the hotel was at capacity on Tuesday.