1. ITV Report

Pet emu rescued from small back garden after being bought online

Elvis was bought on eBay as a fertile egg and hatched by his previous owner Photo: RSPCA

The RSPCA is urging people not to buy exotic pets online after rescuing an emu from a small back garden in the New Forest.

Elvis, who was being kept alongside chickens, was originally purchased on eBay as a fertile egg and was hatched by his previous owner.

A member of the public contacted the charity after being concerned for the bird's welfare.

The three year old male emu was rescued by the animal welfare charity last month.

The bird has been strongly imprinted on humans, having never seen another emu.

The owner agreed it would be better for Elvis to be rehomed somewhere with more space and with another emu.

Elvis has now been rehomed in Gloucestershire alongside another emu Credit: RSPCA

This is the latest in a number of unusual call-outs the charity has received to exotic, wild animals including emus, raccoon dogs, primates and even caiman.

It comes just a year after the charity was contacted with concerns for another emu which had been hatched from an egg bought online.

The charity is urging the public not to be tempted to buy exotic animals online, despite them being readily available.

The giant birds, which are native to Australia, stay with their parent for up to 18 months in the wild but if hand-reared, emu chicks may imprint on their owner, instead of their parent, and become distressed when the owner leaves.

Problems can also occur as they mature, as they may see their owner as their sexual partner and this can lead to aggression.

Unfortunately it is all too easy nowadays to buy exotic and sometimes dangerous animals online at the click of a button, and it is sadly often the case that they are handed over to buyers, who may be new to keeping that species, with little to no information about how to care for them, or the commitment that is involved in keeping them healthy.

“The RSPCA is urging anyone thinking of taking on a pet always to fully research what’s involved in keeping a particular species first. Some species are unsuitable to be kept as pets because their needs cannot be met adequately in a household environment, or because they are dangerous.

"Emus can grow to more than 6ft tall and are the second-tallest living bird by height after the ostrich. They can live for up to 20 years and need large outdoor paddocks with a shelter and high fencing to keep them safe - not conditions you can provide in your average home.

“Until 2007 they required a licence to be kept, under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

“Emus are certainly not fussy eaters so care needs to be taken to make sure they don’t eat whatever is lying around.

“They also need water, dust and mud to bathe in to keep their feathers in good condition. They are also known to be sensitive to noise, easily stressed and require specialist vet care, which is likely to be expensive and not available nearby.”

– Nicola White, RSPCA senior scientific officer for exotics
Elvis was transported to his new home in a specially designed box Credit: RSPCA

It was a logistical nightmare then getting Elvis from Hampshire to a specialist centre in Gloucestershire where he was offered a permanent home with another emu. “We borrowed a specially designed ratite transport box from a zoo animal transporter and borrowed a horse lorry from one of the RSPCA’s equine centres.

“Access to the garden was difficult and we had to be extremely careful loading him as we didn’t want him to escape onto the housing estate.

“However, we managed to load him onto the horsebox and we transferred him to his new home where he is now living with a female emu called Cilla.“Both birds instinctively ran to each other and now doing really well together. It was lovely to see.”

– Phil Hamilton, RSPCA exotics officer