(Animal encounter photos are available upon request.)
This story took place at the Wild Animal Park in Escondido, CA, which has acres of open terrain to simulate an animal's natural environment. At that time they had a circular enclosure of kangaroos far from the main area of the park. We had been hiking on their trails for some time when we came upon a strange scene. Right away I knew something was wrong. Kangaroos were running all over their couple of acres as though something was chasing them.
That was when I saw this very small baby darting from tree and rock, trying to hide. Somehow this baby kangaroo had been separated from its mother. Then with wings flying and large feet slamming down on the ground I realized this baby was running frantically from an emu chasing it. It was trying to peck it and twice it almost stomped on the middle of the baby's back.
I felt horror struck. What could we do? No one animal keepers were in view, only a number of visitors. Everybody just stood there in shock, some people shrieked. A woman yelled, "Oh, dear where's the baby's mother?" Suddenly, I went into high gear. I remember thinking, I can't let this happen. My husband was farther away so I yelled at a man I didn't even know to take off his shirt, so I could swing it at the emu to distract it. I guess better him than me. The man was speechless. I pointed to the baby and quickly explained. Then he understood and quickly relinquished his shirt with a tiny bit of embarrassment.
The enclosure was way off in the back
trail area, and no one could find an animal keeper nearby. This
enclosure was chain length fence that only came up to my shoulders.
On my tip toes I could reach over and swing this white T-shirt
at this angry emu. When I did, the bird was distracted and the
baby ran once again and hid under a log. The emu was confused
and couldn't find the baby. Whew! In my mind I thought,
That only lasted long enough for all three of us to catch our breath. Then the baby took off probably trying to find his mother. The emu noticed the movement and started running after him, gaining on him with every second. The baby ran towards a tree and grass for cover, but the bird cut him off. Next the little guy ran to the far side of this circular enclosure where there was no place to hide, no trees, logs, just open ground ending right at the fence line. I ran like a mad man to reach the other side. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an animal keeper in the distance. I yelled at another to man to tell the keeper and he started running towards the keeper that seemed so far away. I was so thankful he was running, maybe if he reaches the trainer in time we can get help.
When I reached the other side the baby saw me and ran right to me. I was right next to the fence, leaning against it. The baby tried to get between my feet and he leaned as hard as he could against the cold, hard chain link fence. I looked down at him, he was so tiny. I could see his chest heaving, poor little one. Then I looked up in time to see the emu running straight towards me. This time he was staring at me and he tried to peck me. I swung the shirt and prayed the baby wouldn't run. The emu seemed to be fixated on the shirt for a moment, when suddenly five or six female kangaroos ran up and made a close semi-circle around me and the baby. I was so surprised. They were helping and they completely understood the situation.
The emu backed up a few feet behind them, but refused to leave, and again he was intently watching the baby. All of us were motionless. As my eyes glanced around the crowd of people that had gathered I could see surprise, nervousness and fear in their expressions. I didn't know what else to do but wait and be still. I hoped the female kangaroos could help or maybe the animal keeper would get here soon. Everyone was standing still, people and animals.
People were whispering in low tones when
I heard a small high-pitched chattering sound. I thought it was
the baby, but it wasn't. The female on the left of the semi-circle
was making this sound and leaning towards the baby. Great, I
thought, it's his mother. In a streak the baby ran to her. I
felt so relieved. He found her, I thought. The emu started to
attack, but the other kangaroos held tight it their formation
and blocked his way. The baby tried to get into her pouch. She
even tried to push him in, but there was no room at the inn,
so to speak, when another
Quickly, all the other kangaroos started
making this high-pitched chattering sound. The sound was intense
and building. The baby responded and quickly ran to each kangaroo.
To my amazement each one already had a baby in every pouch. I
couldn't believe it, and I could see the little one becoming
very frustrated as he tried to get
Why was this emu so intent on this baby, and why wouldn't he just leave, I thought? As long as he's here, I'm not moving and neither did the kangaroos. The semi-circle kept them close to me. I could see them looking at me, without fear and they seemed to understand who was dangerous and that I was trying to help them. My heart was pounding when I saw a young woman, the animal keeper approaching very cautiously with gloves.
The crowd was so big by now, but everyone
held still, even the kangaroos. The
When she entered the enclosure she moved so slowly that for a moment I thought none of the animals would run off. They stayed put as long as they dared until the last second when a flurry of feathers and tails all seemed to be flying past the baby and me, but the baby didn't move.
Jane began her approach to reach for the baby. She looked as though she was stalking something in the way she moved. I remember thinking this will never work, animals are so fast. He'll run right when she reaches for him. All the while I talked in low soothing tones to the baby, shivering now at my feet and probably exhausted. Jane moved like a cat, closed the gap and was within two feet of reaching us. The baby's left side was leaning against the fence, so she approached him from behind. He started to look up, and that was when her gloved hands quickly wrapped around his tiny body.
She stood up slowly with a big smile. The baby's back was against her chest and all I could see was two big feet straight out in front of me. The warmth of her body and holding him close to her must have relaxed the exhausted youngster. I could see him physically relax. The only thing that separated us was a chain length fence. She was so close to me I could have hugged her. She asked me not to leave and said she was bringing the baby out and they were coming to me.
I could hardly wait for them to reach
me, when I heard the crowd cheer. When she walked up I could
see how really young and tiny this baby was, except for those
feet, which made me laugh. His feet were the length of his entire
body! Jane asked my name and said I had saved the baby's life.
She explained that an emu's legs are so strong they could easily
break a human's femur with one swift kick. Thus the
"Why are they together then", I asked? "Emus usually live peaceably with kangaroos, but for some reason this one became threatening, and he will be removed to another area immediately", she replied.
The other question in both of our minds
was where is the baby's mother? Before we
I kept in touch with Jane and found out that they did locate his mother about an acre away. They had two groups of kangaroos and thought the emu chasing them had separated the mother and the baby accidentally. The mother and the baby reunited happily, and the baby immediately hopped into her pouch! It's always so good to have a safe, warm place to hide and a happy ending.
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Earth and Sky Reflection