Australian hiker gets up close and personal with emu – it doesn't go well

Emu running in Queensland, Australia
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A hiker got a nasty surprise when he tried to grab some close-up wildlife photos at Australia's Nambung National Park. Excited by the sight of an emu on the trail, the man decided to approach, phone in hand – only to discover just how fast these powerful birds can run.

Explore Parks WA explains that the danger posed by wildlife in Australia is often overstated, but it's still important to show animals respect. 

"If an animal feels trapped, it may try to protect itself," officials say. "If you feel threatened by an animal stay calm, keep an eye on where it is, back away, do not run. Some animals in some circumstances may react to your behaviour in particular ways. Research the types of animals you may encounter on your travels and their behavior."

This particular visitor clearly wasn't familiar with this advice and tried to outrun the emu, but was saved by a companion. In a video shot by artist Joanne Coley and shared on Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks last week, a second man stood his ground as the emu sprinted towards him, and managed to deter its charge.

Adult male emus are Australia's largest birds, and as New South Wales Environment and Heritage explains, can reach speeds of up to 31 miles per hour, leaving even Olympic sprinters in the dust. When threatened, they tend to run in a zig-zag pattern to throw off predators, but can also defend themselves at close range with a swift kick or two. Attacks on people are rare, but an emu's toe claws can cause serious injuries, and like all wild birds and animals, they can be unpredictable.

In 2022, a man was attacked by an emu not in Australia, but in the British town of Malmesbury. After crashing their truck into the corner of a shop, two people ran off towards a nearby exotic animal sanctuary, where one of them stumbled across a female emu protecting her young.

"One of them went into the field, and tried to be a bit aggressive towards the emus," said Dean Wade, executive chef at a nearby hotel, who gave chase after seeing the crash. "The emus were curious and they started pecking away at him, which he didn’t take to. Then he ran off."

The emus, which the wildlife sanctuary called "wonderful creatures" were all unharmed, and the driver and passenger were both intercepted by police soon after.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.