The Kangaroo Island Dwarf Emu, a species of the past
Kangaroo Island once had it’s own native emu Dromaius baudinianus, a very similar species was also found in some parts of Tasmania. Discovered by Matthew Flinders in 1802, the emu was much smaller than those found on the Australian mainland and they were very prevalent on the Island, especially around the areas of Nepean Bay and Emu Bay, named after the dwarf emu.
When Nicolas Baudin came to Kangaroo Island on his expedition, he collected 3 dwarf emus which were taken back to France and survived until 1822. One was preserved for history and was on display in The Louvre in France for many years. Talk was that it was going to be bought back to Kangaroo Island to be displayed at the Tourist Information Centre?
(Conflicting stories, so I will write about both of them. There was no eme in the Louvre but there were two, brought back by Nicolas Baudin, at first in the Chateau de Malmaison (Napoleon’s residence) and then in the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes.)
The last published record of the species was in 1819, and it was certainly extinct by 1836. The demise of this species is believed to be due to major bush fires and the culling of the emus for food, maybe disease bought by white man as pigs and chickens were bought to the island off of the ships when the first settlers arrived.
Lead author Dr Vicki Thomson is an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award Fellow at the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences believing that “On at least the smaller islands, Kangaroo and King Islands, we know they were hunted by the sealers for food, shot or killed by specially trained dogs.”
Australia’s iconic emu is the only living representative of its genus. The study revealed that the small stature of the now extinct island emus evolved relatively quickly.
Emu Ridge has its very own mainland emus, they are a mascot to the farm being part of the history. Our farm is called Emu Ridge for a very different reason, not because of the dwarf emu. A company in Adelaide named FH Faulding and Co were famous for their Emu Brand Eucalyptus oil. As farmers were clearing their land for sheep farming, Fauldings eucalyptus oil supply was declining so they purchased our farm, originally called Windy Ridge in 1923 and renamed it after their famous Emu Brand Eucalyptus oil. They planted plantations of eucalyptus trees to produce more oil and later sold the farm in 1952.
If you would like to know more about our emu and the uses for emu products, have a look at our blog about emu oil, eggs and feathers etc.
(If you would like to read more about these cute friends, see our blog with the full story)
Here’s a few more interesting references: