The emu, a bird native to Australia, is not endangered, nor is it attractive, nor does it have much monetary value.
And that is precisely why officials and staff members at Featherdale Wildlife Park in the western suburbs of Sydney are baffled over the bizarre theft or kidnapping of one of the large, flightless birds on Monday night.
The Australian Times reported that a thief (or thieves) made off with a female emu from its electrified enclosure at Featherdale by placing a bread crumb trail some 600 meters long that led to a local railway line, where, police assume, the bird was taken away in a getaway vehicle.
The culprits scaled a two-meter electrified barbed fence in the back of the park in order to seize their dubious quarry.
An adult emu can be as tall as 6 and 1/2 feet and weigh as much as 150 pounds.
Reuters reported that park staff are also puzzled as to how the thieves were able to carry a creature the size of a small ostrich over the fence while evading guards and security cameras.
The bird was not taken without a fight, as evidenced by the many feathers left at the scene of the crime.
"It looks like the emu may have sustained injuries during the theft," park curator Chad Staples said in a statement.
"The theft and injuries sustained would have been traumatic enough, but if the animal is still alive, it will be feeling additional stress being in an unfamiliar environment."
The park officials are concerned about the emu becoming injured and frightened away from its familiar surroundings.
Local police are taking the theft seriously and have commenced an investigation. The kidnappers have left no ransom note.
But Kelli Ames, a park spokeswoman, said the emu has no worth on the black market.
“That’s where the mind boggles. It has no monetary value,” she said.
Staples himself told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "It's unbelievable. I understand to a degree when you're talking about an animal that has significant monetary value, but an emu?"
Despite their homely, ungainly appearance and mundanity, the emu is Australia’s national bird and an important symbol for the country, appearing on the nation’s coat of arms, as well as on coins and stamps.
Emus are common throughout much of Australia. According to Birdlife.org, the bird’s conservation status is classified as “secure” in most provinces, except in the Northern Territories.