When World War I ended, veterans from Australia didn’t have much to do. As such, the Australian government decided to begin something called a “soldier settlement scheme” where over 5,000 veterans were granted farmland to be used for raising wheat and sheep.

Turning soldiers into farmers

Between 1915 and 1920, 90,000 hectares of land were purchased for the soldier settlement scheme — but it still was not enough. In the end, they had to resort to placing soldiers on barren land in Perth, Western Australia. This land was not very farmable for experienced farmers, and even less so for veterans with no farming experience.

The Great Depression struck in 1929 and left wheat prices dropping fast. The veteran farmers were in a predicament. Promises of government wheat subsidies were never fulfilled which. As it turns out, that was the least of the problems farmers were facing.

This is what happens when you mess with emus

Turning so much of what used to be empty land into a space for farming left tens of thousands of emus in West Australia displaced. Once a protected native species, their destruction on wheat farms led them to be reclassified as vermin in 1922. Ten years later, they were still wreaking havoc, so the ex-soldiers took it upon themselves to get rid of them. One might think ex-soldiers would clear the land of emus in no time. That was not the case.

That’s when the Australian military was called in. Surely they could take out 20,000 emus. They’re giant birds that can’t even fly. The first battle didn’t go quite as planned. The emus scattered when the shooting began, and only one of the fifty was taken down. In the next battle, only 10 out of 1,000 were taken down. The army took more drastic measures after that, using moving trucks to try to gun the emus down. Yet the emus were too fast for the soldiers, and yet again, the attempt failed. While 200 emus were killed in total, the amount of ammunition required for even that nominal feat was far too much.

The final fate for the emus

In 1932, the military struck against the emus once again — but the initial attempt only left 40 dead. In the following weeks, reports came in stating that 100 emus met their demise every week, but the ammunition that had to be used (ten bullets per emu) was a bit pathetic. So the Great Emu War was then called off. Emus 1; Australian army, 0.

In the end, the Australia government gifted ammunition to the locals so that a dent could finally be made in the emu population. Sadly, over 57,000 emus were casualties in the following six months. Today, they have had their protected animal status reinstated, and over 700,000 of them continue to roam freely and safely down under.