AN EMU has been rescued by the RSPCA after being kept in a garden with chickens.
The animal welfare charity is now urging people not to buy exotic wild animals online.
The three-year-old male emu called Elvis, who was rescued last month, was bought on eBay.
Exotics officer Phil Hamilton said: ‘Elvis was originally purchased on eBay as a fertile egg and was hatched by his previous owner.
‘He was taken in by a new owner to live with his chickens in his small, back garden.
‘The bird has been strongly imprinted on humans, having never seen another emu.’
The RSPCA was contacted by a member of the public who was concerned about the bird’s welfare.
Specialist animal collection officers Mr Hamilton and Darren Woodroof visited the property, on the edge of the New Forest, and spoke with the owner who agreed it would be better for Elvis to be re-homed somewhere with more space and with another emu friend.
Mr Hamilton added: ‘It was a logistical nightmare then getting Elvis from Hampshire to a specialist centre in Gloucestershire where he was offered a permanent home with another emu.
‘We borrowed a specially designed ratite transport box from a zoo animal transporter and borrowed a horse lorry from one of the RSPCA’s equine centres.
‘Access to the garden was difficult and we had to be extremely careful loading him as we didn’t want him to escape onto the housing estate.
‘However, we managed to load him onto the horsebox and we transferred him to his new home where he is now living with a female emu called Cilla.
‘Both birds instinctively ran to each other and now doing really well together. It was lovely to see.’
Elvis is the latest in a number of unusual call-outs the charity has received to exotic, wild animals including emus, raccoon dogs, primates and caiman which are related to alligators and crocodiles.
RSPCA senior scientific officer for exotics, Nicola White, said: ‘Unfortunately it is all too easy nowadays to buy exotic - and sometimes dangerous - animals online at the click of a button.
‘It is sadly often the case they are handed over to buyers, who may be new to keeping that species, with little to no information about how to care for them, or the commitment that is involved in keeping them healthy.’