As It Happens

Emus Carol and Kevin 'banned for life' from Australian outback pub

Carol and Kevin are no longer welcome in Chris Gimblett's pub. That's because the large, rowdy siblings keep stealing food off customers' plates and going to the bathroom all over the place. 

'They've taken it pretty well, actually,' says the owner of the Yaraka Hotel and Pub

In this photo taken and released by Leanne Byrne, an emu named Carol, three years old and raised from an egg, walks around behind a fence, July 5, 2020, in Yaraka, in the Longreach Region, Queensland, Australia, population 13. (Leanne Byrne/The Associated Press)
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Carol and Kevin are no longer welcome in Chris Gimblett's pub.

That's because the large, rowdy siblings keep stealing food off customers' plates and going to the bathroom all over the place. 

"They have been banned for life, I'm afraid," Gimblett, who runs the Yaraka Hotel and Pub in Yaraka, Australia, told As It Happens guest host Susan Bonner. 

"They've taken it pretty well, actually. They do hang around at the bottom of the steps, peering up into dining room."

Carol and Kevin are, of course, a pair of emus who have taken up residency in the tiny Queensland town of about 18, much to the delight of locals and tourists alike.

Fried eggs, bacon, sausages, they all disappear. They've got an amazing capacity to eat.- Chris Gimblett, Yakara Hotel and Pub

The birds were born and raised in Yakara. Local wildlife caretaker Leanne Byrne hatched them herself with an electric blanket in 2018 after some folks found an abandoned emu nest nearby.

There were eight emus originally, but all except Carol and Kevin moved on, apparently in search of mates.

Gimblett runs the only pub in town and previously welcomed the creatures, which drew tourists to the remote outback location to snap selfies with the friendly birds. 

But things took a turn last week when the duo finally figured out that they could climb the front stairs of the pub and enter into the dining area.

"Emus are not a particularly intelligent creature. In fact, they're down at the lower end of the scale of IQ. And they are just basically eating machines. That's all they're interested in doing is eating," Gimblett said. 

"You can imagine the disaster [that] would happen as they started eating all the meals off people's plates."

And what goes into the emu must also come out.

"Because they're eating all the time — this is going to be a bit difficult to translate politely — I guess their toileting habits happen fairly frequently," Gimblett said.

"When you get something that resembles sort of a sloppy bowl of porridge upturned from a height of a metre and lands on the ground, it spreads and settles the splatter effect. I think you get the general idea of what I'm trying to say."

Not to mention, they're big. Emus can weigh as much as 40 kilograms and reach nearly two metres in height.

"Emus do scare quite easily, and when they do get scared, they can run very fast," Gimblett said.

"In many cases, they turn their heads around and look at the thing that gave them the fright, which means that anything in front of them suffers badly. Believe you me, getting hit by an emu is quite explosive."

A pub in the Australian Outback has banned two emus for 'bad behaviour' after they learned to climb the stairs and wreaked havoc inside. (Leanne Byrne/The Associated Press)

Gimblett used a chain to block the birds from climbing the stairs again, along with a sign that advises customers to replace it once they enter because "emus have been banned from this establishment for bad behaviour."

Fortunately, the birds are doing quite well finding other food to gobble. They've taken to visiting the nearby caravan park every morning to either beg or steal their breakfast from the tourists.

If they're not hand-fed, they'll help themselves to toast down in the toaster. They will drink from a mug of coffee [or a] mug of tea. Bit like a vacuum cleaner — they put their beak in and it's just gone. They don't knock the mug over," Gimblett said.

"And if anybody happens to be cooking a barbecue, you don't get between the ... emu and what's on the barbecue plate. Fried eggs, bacon, sausages, they all disappear. They've got an amazing capacity to eat."

If anything, Gimblett says, the emus are probably better fed now than they've ever been. They're also, he says, the centre of attention.

"They've certainly changed the dynamics of this little outback town in the last few days. Never before have we had camera crews setting up their equipment in the streets and journalists around the place, and telephones ringing madly," he said.

"It's been quite an extraordinary event."


Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview produced by Menaka Raman-Wilms.

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