Science

TikTok’s beloved emu Emmanuel is fighting for his life within days after avian flu kills “99% of the birds” at his farm

An emu named Emmanuel has become one of TikTok’s most beloved birds, as his owner Taylor Blake posts videos of the animal’s sassy behavior. But a deadly wave of avian flu has hit Blake’s Knuckle Bump Farms, and now, Emmanuel is fighting for his life as one of two bird survivors.

Blake announced Saturday that his farm has been hit with a deadly avian flu, saying he has a problem with flying wild Egyptian geese on the farm. At one point, the South Florida farm had more than 50 wild geese, she said, and they carried the virus to her animals.

“We lost 99% of the birds on our farm,” Blake tweeted. “…we lost 50+ birds in 3 days.”

Avian flu, otherwise known as bird flu, has been making its way through Florida since it was first detected in Palm Beach County in January, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed. Black vultures have been the animals most affected by the virus since that time, the department said, although a dead bottlenose dolphin also tested positive.

The department said it suspects an increase in infected species this fall.

“I can’t even begin to express the feeling of watching innocent animals die. Daily. Innocent animals that didn’t deserve to die,” Blake said. “It’s even harder to swallow the fact that we didn’t do anything wrong, it wasn’t our fault, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.”

Among the dying birds are Emmanuel’s fellow TikTok stars Emily, Eliza and Elliot. Blake said the farm lost “every single hen and duck” as well as all their swans, turkeys and two female black swans. Emmanuel and Rico, a swan, are the only birds left.

Initially, Blake thought Emmanuel had done it, but said that last Wednesday he had become ill. He soon stopped eating and drinking on his own. He also suffered nerve damage in his right leg and foot, prompting Blake and his girlfriend Kristian Haggerty to create a sling for physical therapy to help him function again.

The situation has been “painful,” Blake said, but on Sunday, there was a moment of hope: Emmanuel himself drank water for the first time since becoming ill.

He has even been able to transform himself into his sling, by applying pressure to his right leg and even stepping backwards, Blake tweeted on Sunday.

“At this point, every small step feels like a milestone,” she said. “… he’s getting stronger day by day.”

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