A secret trick for attracting wild emus in the outback has caused a sensation on TikTok, attracting over five million views.
Originally filmed in 2017, the video was shared again in February by ecologist Dr Alexandra Ross after a follower asked about "the bicycle trick”.
“If you cycle your legs in the air like this, emus will come and investigate because they think you might be an injured emu on the ground,” she says from behind the camera. Other theories are that they think it’s an emu playing, or that you’re just “plain weird”.
People have been in stitches after watching the video. "Ummm, this is amazing," one person wrote. "Why are Australian animals so strange?" the official University of NSW account responded.
A handful of other people suggested the video was a prank. "Is that real?," someone asked.
Is the emu video a prank?
While there are many myths shared by Australians intended to make tourists look stupid, Dr Ross is adamant she’s not pulling our legs this time. The video does appear to show a group of emus wandering over to a woman lying on the road and cycling her legs in the air.
Dr Ross is conducting research for Australian Wildlife Conservancy at its 5000-hectare reserve. A fifth of which is fenced off from cats and foxes to maintain populations of native bilbies, numbats and two species of bettongs. While conducting vegetation surveys, she’s often approached by male emus who look after the juveniles, which she describes as “super curious”.
She says the trick only works with wild birds. “If they don’t know what a human is they’ll pretty much always come and check you out,” she said. “But it doesn’t always work if there are people or tourist towns. They’re not interested in something they’ve seen one hundred times before.”
How to avoid spiders while walking at night
But it’s not just emus she’s been interacting with, Dr Ross has learned a lot of other cool wildlife tricks while working remotely.
Most importantly she’s learned a tip for avoiding creepy crawlies at night. Firstly she advises bushwalkers to look for eyes shining in the moonlight because she says no one wants to walk into a great big huntsman. “If you step side to side and the eye shine twinkles, it means you’re looking at a spider,” she said. “That’s because you’re getting the shine of multiple eyes and that’s what causes the twinkle.
Another trick she’s learned for locating termites is burying a toilet roll in the ground. You can monitor termite activity by seeing how much of the roll has been eaten,” she said. Because the tiny insects are an essential food source for numbats it’s important to know which areas they are living in.
One last trick Dr Ross shared is the recipe for a special food used for catching animals that need to be monitored. “We call it universal bait,” she said. “It’s just peanut butter and oats mixed in a bowl. But even animals that don’t normally eat that sort of food will go mad for it.”
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