LISBON — After a three-month push to finance the $3,000 journey to his new home in Georgia, Ralphie the emu is on his way.

The bird had been in the care of Janet Tuttle at Rockin’ T Equine Sanctuary and Rescue in Lisbon for a decade. Ralphie came to Tuttle after an animal control officer picked up the emu in Bowdoinham about 10 years ago. Since then, Tuttle has struggled to find the right food, veterinary care, and enough space for the emu. The second-largest bird species behind the ostrich, emus are flightless birds that are native to Australia and can grow to over 6 feet tall and run at speeds of up to 30 mph.

Ralphie escaped from Rockin’ T in June. He was recaptured the next day but his most recent foray prompted the effort to find him a more secure, permanent home.

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia, agreed to take Ralphie, but the $3,000 needed to transport the bird stood in the way.

“I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to do it,” Tuttle said. “It’s hard to even get money for the horses sometimes.”

Some of Tuttle’s volunteers helped organize a T-shirt fundraiser to get Ralphie to Georgia. Pat Thompson of East Coast Equine Transport made the 22-hour trip with Ralphie. Tuttle wanted someone she trusted, and had to find someone willing to make a special trip.

“Normally, it costs about $3,500 when she has a full load with horses. She was willing to drop the price,” Tuttle said. “He has his food, his water and his grapes. I’m going to be checking on him once he gets down there and I have the numbers to call throughout.”


It took about 20 minutes to get Ralphie on the trailer Monday. Tuttle said the emu wasn’t in the mood to move and she was on the receiving end of a kick, but says she’ll miss caring for the bird.

“It’s sad, but he’s better off there,” Tuttle said. “We cared for him for 10 years and it was fine, but we did all we could for him.”

Ralphie will join more than 1,500 other exotic and domestic animals, including nearly 60 emus at his new home in Georgia. The bird will have easier access to proper veterinary care and nutrition.

Tuttle estimates Ralphie is about 19 years old, putting him at about two-thirds of the expected lifespan of an emu in captivity.

Tuttle’s sanctuary will continue to provide a safe home for horses.

“No more adventures with emus for me,” she said.

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: