A new brochure, funded by the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, aims to raise community awareness and support for the endangered NSW North Coast population of the coastal emu.

National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) Ranger Holly North said that as recently as the 1980s, emus were widespread in coastal NSW from Port Stephens to Evans Head.

“Today the coastal emu is found only between Red Rock, south of Grafton, and Evans Head,” Ms North said.

“The main threats facing our emus are collisions with vehicles and egg and chick predation by foxes and dogs.

“The North Coast emu is now separated into three distinct sub-populations, one in Yuraygir National Park south of the Clarence River, one in Bundjalung National Park north of the Clarence, and one in the Richmond River floodplain about 10 to 30 kilometres inland of the coast.

“The NPWS has been running annual North Coast emu surveys using community volunteers for 10 years, and in that time the distribution of this population has contracted by about 60%.

“The new brochure encourages people who see emus to report them to NPWS.

“We would like to know where they are nesting, what habitats are preferred for nesting, and whether there are genetic differences between this coastal population and emus in western NSW.

“We hope to obtain DNA samples, find out more about their nesting behaviour and determine numbers and distribution of the endangered population.

“In Bundjalung National Park and Iluka Nature Reserve, numbers have decreased dramatically over the last few years and we would be particularly interested in any sightings in this area.

“The emus are currently nesting and chicks hatch in August to September. The males raise the chicks and can lose up to a third of their body weight while sitting on the eggs for two months.

“Drivers are encouraged to slow down in emu areas and keep dogs under control.

“Community support for protecting local emus is the key to their survival.”

PICTURES: Male emus incubate the eggs, and remain with chicks until they are 18 months old (photo NPWS). Emus at Yuraygir National Park (photo Helen Worthing).