Saturday, May 8, 2010

Emu War

The "Emu War" was a nuisance wildlife management operation undertaken in Australia over the latter part of 1932 to address public concern over the number of emus said to be running amok in the Campion district of Western Australia. The attempts to curb the population of emus, a large flightless bird indigenous to Australia, employed soldiers armed with machine guns – leading the media to adopt the satirical name "Emu War" when referring to the incident.

Subsequent to the cessation of hostilities after World War I, large numbers of ex-soldiers from Australia, along with a number of British veterans, took up farming within Western Australia. Having served in World War One, the soldier-settlers were well aware of the effectiveness of machine guns, and they requested their deployment. The Minister of Defence readily agreed, although with conditions attached: the guns had to be used by military personnel, the transport of the troops had to be paid for by the Western Australian government, and the farmers would provide food, accommodation, and payment for the ammunition. Pearce agreed on the grounds that the birds would make good target practice.

The "war" was conducted under the command of Major G.P.W. Meredith. In his report he claimed 986 kills with 9,860 rounds, at a rate of exactly 10 rounds per confirmed kill. In addition, Meredith claimed 2,500 wounded birds had died as a result of the injuries that they had sustained.

In spite of the problems encountered with the cull, the farmers of the region once again requested military assistance in 1934, 1943 and 1948, only to be turned down by the government. Instead, the bounty system that had been instigated in 1923 was continued, and this proved to be effective: 57,034 bounties were claimed over a six month period in 1934.