Saturday, 27 September 2014

Mind your Rhea

Not something you would expect to come across in the English countryside - a Rhea

If you happen to be out and about in the Hampshire countryside any time soon, just be prepared that you might wander around the corner of some field and quite literally come eye to eye with what might at first look like a bird on steroids, but is actually a small Ostrich type species called a Rhea!

By all accounts, this bird has been living quite contentedly for the last couple of years in the wild. The bird would normally be found in South America and differs from an ostrich in being smaller, with a feathered neck and only three toes. The flightless bird is regularly spotted around the village of Long Sutton, which is situated about 3 miles to the south of Odiham.

The bird is “known to police” and the RSPCA, having escaped from its owner about two years ago and has so far evaded attempts to capture it. You would think that a large flightless bird would not be that difficult to catch, but do bear in mind that these long legged creatures can run up to 40 MPH and if caught, can give you one hell of a kick!   A statement from a rather relieved police spokesman said: “Generally the bird keeps itself to itself and clearly appears to be coping with living in the wild".

I do suggest it keeps its head down though (not necessarily an easy thing for a Rhea to do!) as back in their homeland Rheas have many uses. Feathers are used for feather dusters, skins are used for cloaks or leather, and their meat is a staple to many South American people. In fact, the Gaucho people traditionally hunt rheas on horseback, throwing Bolas, a throwing device consisting of three balls joined by rope, at their legs which immobilises the bird.

Last spring, another Rhea, named Rita, was also on the loose roaming the East Hertfordshire countryside. Rita, chose a bad area to reside in however, as in the end she had to be shot. A statement from Hertfordshire Constabulary said: “Police have received notification that the missing rhea has been lawfully killed near a carriageway in Anstey, as there was fear of it getting onto a main road and causing a collision.

I have a large number of folk gathering at my house for Christmas this year. Wonder where that South American cookbook is…….

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