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'Emus Have Been Banned' For Bad Behavior, A Hotel In Australia's Outback Says

An emu named Carol, age 3, walks around behind a fence in Yaraka, a small town in Australia. An Australian Outback pub has banned Carol and her brother Kevin for "bad behavior" after they learned to climb the stairs and created havoc inside.
An emu named Carol, age 3, walks around behind a fence in Yaraka, a small town in Australia. An Australian Outback pub has banned Carol and her brother Kevin for "bad behavior" after they learned to climb the stairs and created havoc inside.

Updated at 7:30 a.m. ET

Two emus – siblings Kevin and Carol — are now banned from a hotel in a tiny town in Australia's vast Outback. Raised by an animal rescuer, the birds are usually a friendly and wide-eyed source of entertainment. But then the emus learned to climb the stairs.

The new skill gave the birds access to the pub of the Yaraka Hotel in Queensland. Once inside, they unleashed a long-legged brand of chaos. They snatched toast and French fries away from customers. One of the birds even went behind the bar. A stern response was required.

"Emus have been banned from this establishment for bad behavior," a sign now says at the stairs leading to the hotel's pub. The message asks any human visitors to replace the "emu barrier" when they enter.

"We put the sign up, but we're not quite sure whether they're able to read or not," hotel co-owner Gerry Gimblett said in an interview with 10 News First Queensland. "So, we've had to put a bar across there, as well."

The emus have been popular with visitors – they've learned that posing for a photo often means a reward of a quick snack, said Gimblett, who owns the hotel with her husband, Chris.

"The interesting thing is when people are making toast in the annex, a head comes across, takes the toast and gobbles it up as it pops," Gimblett told the Brisbane Times.

"It is not safe to get between an emu and food; they have a sharp strong beak and their long neck can suck up food like a high powered vacuum cleaner," Chris Gimblett says in an email to NPR.

Another concern: if the emus are startled, the large birds would likely run — fast. When frightened, the animals have a tendency, Chris Gimblett says, to do "a forward sprint whilst looking behind them at the source of their fright and heaven help people and objects that happen to be in their 'blind' forward run."

Despite the birds' transgressions, Gimblett said she's glad Kevin and Carol have stuck around — two survivors of a nest full of eggs that was found abandoned. All their brothers and sisters have since moved on.

The pair have endeared themselves to the locals and visitors alike. Until recently, Gimblett said, the emus had been kept at bay by cordons that were erected around the back of the hotel. Then the birds worked out how to use the three stairs leading up to the pub's patio.

"We didn't think they could climb stairs," said Leanne Byrne, a Yaraka resident who raised Kevin and Carol, in an interview with the ABC. The animals made several cameos in that segment, lunging in front of the camera to grab pieces of bread.

Now, Gimblett said, she's hoping the birds won't figure out how to maneuver, limbo-style, under the rope and up the stairs.

Crowding isn't normally a problem in the pub. After all, Yaraka has a population of fewer than 20 people. But as is often the case with wild animals, there are other issues – literally.

"If they had control of their bowels," the emus would be welcome inside, Gimblett told the ABC.

"They're a tad incontinent," Byrne agreed.

Even with the chance of foul behavior, Yaraka's emus are generating interest online from people who said they want to visit the Outback town. Many also said they're thankful for a bit of avian comic relief.

"The Country is needing this with our Covid crises," a visitor to the hotel's Facebook page wrote. "The ABC journalist could not stop laughing, and nor could I."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.