South-American bird destroys German crops

While many farmers and livestock owners worry about damages from wild boars and wolves, some farmers in Germany worry about something else:   the rhea. This big flightless bird, also known in Germany as the nandu, is originally from South America. It is distantly related to the ostrich and emu. Surprisingly, you will find the only European wild population of rheas in Germany. Despite efforts to limit population growth, numbers are increasing. Farmers worry for their crops and demand intensive regulation.

Ineffective egg-drilling

A growing group of rheas established itself in the German Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, on the border with Schleswig-Holstein, as the Ostsee-Zeitung writes in their article. A few founding individuals escaped a rhea-farm back around 2000 and made their way to the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee. In 2017, the Agricultural Ministry of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ordered to drill holes in the rhea-eggs, to avoid large numbers of newborn. As a result, the population decreased with 22 individuals. This year a hole was drilled in 190 eggs, but the population grew from 205 to 566 individuals, according to the annual count. More than half of the population are yearlings.

Damage to crops

The rheas seem to feast on fields of wheat and rapeseed, and the available compensation funds are not sufficient. The Agricultural Minister and representatives of farmers’ associations would like to see other measures to keep the population under control. Killing male rheas is mentioned as one of the solutions. Still, the number of affected farmers is still relatively low, so political pressure is also low. Furthermore, rheas are not listed as invasive species at this moment. 

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