Hunt on for who shot celebrity emu Ernie at close range

Leittia BusniakGeraldton Guardian
VideoA family in Walkaway is mourning the death of its pet emu Ernie.

A Walkaway family has been left devastated after their beloved pet emu was killed in what the community has described as a “callous act” against a defenceless animal.

The Garratt family farm had been home to the emu, named Ernie, for more than 10 years.

Locals and tourists alike would stop to take a photo with Ernie, who was so tame he would allow them to pat or feed him, including this married couple who posed for photos with the feathered celebrity.

Ernie was part of Kurt and Shannon Winfield's wedding photos.
Camera IconErnie was part of Kurt and Shannon Winfield's wedding photos. Credit: The Garratt family.

Annabelle Garratt, 22, who grew up with Ernie, said she would often leave the driveway to find tourists of all nationalities stopping to take a photo.

“We live on a wind farm in Walkway and there is a lookout just across the road from our property,” she said.

“There’s a wind turbine at the top of our gateway so lots of people think that our driveway is the lookout, so they stop and pull in and that’s where Ernie’s paddock is. If you stopped on the fence line he’d come straight up to you and see what you are doing and see if you had something to eat, so lots of people knew him.

It’s such a heartbreaking thing to do and just a senseless, callous act

Annabelle Garratt

“There were always people taking photos of him and feeding him or giving him a scratch, he was really friendly.

“He met people from Europe, America and China. On school holidays when lots of tourists are around, I’d be driving out the gate and there would be someone there taking photos, so I’d stop to try to tell them a little bit about him.”

Ernie was killed by a close-range gunshot last Sunday night, while the family were out of town.

He was found by the farm’s workman on Monday morning.

Ernie takes a snack.
Camera IconErnie takes a snack. Credit: The Garratt family.

It is believed whoever shot Ernie had pulled up to the side of the road and waited for him to reach the fence line.

Ms Garratt said the family had been left heartbroken by such a heartless act.

“There is no mistaking him for a wild emu,” she said.

“He’s not aggressive at all, we’ve taken little kids out to see him and he eats perfectly out of their hands and lets them touch him.

“We had even thought about moving him some time ago because we did think ‘what if something happened to him there’?

He was a bit of an icon in Walkaway, I think, and quite an incredible bird

Annabelle Garratt

“But he just brought so much joy to so many people. To begin with we were obviously devastated, then it was infuriating that someone could do it.

“My mum went back to the primary school she works at and she had little kids coming up to her crying because they see him from the school bus every day.

“It’s such a heartbreaking thing to do and just a senseless, callous act.”

Ernie has been buried under his favourite tree along the driveway.

Annabelle’s dad, Bruce Garratt, said he hoped speaking out would make the person responsible think twice about doing the same thing to someone else’s animal.

Bruce Garratt giving Ernie a scratch.
Camera IconBruce Garratt giving Ernie a scratch. Credit: The Garratt family.

“He was a bit of an icon in Walkaway, I think, and quite an incredible bird,” he said.

“We had him in the house paddock for a little while because he was so sociable.

“He was always around the shed and picking stuff up and all that sort of thing so we thought, before we lose all our car keys, we’ll put him in what we call the front paddock.

“He spent all his life in that paddock and the next paddock up, lots of people saw him.

“Whoever did this shot from the road into the paddock and, I mean, how did they know someone wasn’t in the paddock or where the house was?

“Anybody or anything could have been in there.

“It’s just a bloody shame some idiot has done this.”

A report has since been filed with Geraldton police.

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