Local zoologist Mogan Liller speculated that the twice-escaped Morgan County emu represents a serious danger to the Southern Indiana ecosystem.
"The possibility of emu infestation looms over our heads like Damocles' Sword," Liller said in her keynote address at the Indianapolis Aviary Society meeting on March 27.
The emu originally escaped on March 15 from his Chesterton pen. Though captured by police later that day, by the next morning he had escaped again. Police finally captured the flightless bird on March 18 by using a bucket of corn to lure the emu into a cage.
The reason for the emu’s escape is unknown, but Liller speculates that he was responding to the pheromones that a female emu releases as a signal that her eggs are ready for fertilization.
"The call for a male emu to reproduce can be a powerful one indeed," Liller told the congregation of amateur ornithologists.
Additionally, Liller said, emu are known for their fertility. Not only can they run at nearly 30 miles per hour, but because of their truncated development cycle they can reproduce nearly as fast.
"It wouldn’t take long for them to start consuming food at rates that would spell ecological disaster for any community," Liller said.
"Even if he did not fertilize any eggs, [the emu] has clearly demonstrated both a willingness and an ability to escape whenever he feels like it. It’s only a matter of time before he finds what he was looking for," said Liller, a reproductive expert with Noah's Ark, a zoological research firm based in Carmel.
"When that happens," Liller added, "It’s going to take a lot more than a bucket of corn to save us."