'Baby moa' spotted in woman's garden

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 31/07/2013
moa that's an emu
MALCOLM FALK
NO MOA: The emu found in a garden near Masterton. Not having a moa colony might be sad news for tourism.

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Dog control officers thought they had seen it all, until they were called to deal with a powerful flightless bird, thought to be extinct for centuries.

A woman called Masterton District Council asking for help with a "baby moa" in her garden, dog control team leader Malcolm Falk said.

"We thought it might have been a bit of a wind-up, but it wasn't."

The woman was "quite mystified" by the very large, fierce-looking flightless bird that was making a loud booming noise.

But sadly for Masterton's tourism industry, Mr Falk identified it not as a mighty, extinct moa, but as a much more recent arrival - an emu.

Emus, which are related to ostriches, were introduced to New Zealand from Australia for small-scale meat farming.

Mr Falk was told there had once been an emu-breeding farm on the other side of the Waingawa River, across from the town's water treatment plant in the Kaituna area.

Workers at the plant confirmed there were some emus living wild in bush in the Waingawa riverbed, and had noticed one was missing.

"They said, ‘oh, you've got our moa, have you'?" Mr Falk said.

Returning the emu "without causing a traffic accident, or harming the bird or ourselves" was a challenge.

Mr Falk used a "snappy snare", a type of long whip, to steer the bird without touching it or scaring it along the 1.5 kilometre stretch of road to the area of bush near the water treatment plant.

"It was like how you deal with a trotter," he said.

The operation was delicate because of the bird's powerful appearance and "huge claws".

"They can disembowel you, and they can bloody jump. But he was quite content, it was a leisurely walk."

The emu trotted off into the bush, not far from the edge of the Tararua forest park.

During his four years at the council, Mr Falk had dealt with animals including sheep, pigs, goats, horses, possums, cats, rabbits and a pea-hen that tried to enter a fried chicken restaurant.

But catching the "moa" was the strangest job so far.

The emu episode happened back in February and appears in the 2012-13 dog control report to be presented today to the council's resource management committee.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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