Rewilding with emus will be good for Tasmania’s ecosystems

The emu is iconically Australian. However, most people don’t realise emus once also roamed Tasmania but are now extinct there.

Where did these Tasmanian emus live? Why did they go extinct? And should we reintroduce them? Newly published research combined historical records with population models to find out. The researchers found emus lived across most of eastern Tasmania, including near Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, the Midlands and the east coast. However, in the early days of British occupation, colonists slaughtered so many emus that the population crashed.

It’s not all bad news, though. Those areas still provide enough good, safe emu habitat to make reintroducing emus from the Australian mainland to Tasmania a realistic option.

Large animals, such as bison, wolves and giant tortoises are already part of global efforts to repair and maintain ecosystems and prevent more extinctions, through the conservation movement known as “rewilding”.

In Tasmania, rewilding with emus might help native plants to cope with a changing climate. As our world warms, the places where conditions are just right for particular plant species are shifting. Those plants must disperse far and fast to keep up. Introducing emus, which disperse many plant seeds in their droppings, could help. Without emus, some plant populations won’t be able to disperse quickly enough to escape the local effects of global warming.

Read more about the Tasmania emu and how we might be able to bring them back here!