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TikTok star Emmanuel the emu fighting for life amid avian flu outbreak, caretaker says

His caretaker says nearly every single bird has died at Knuckle Bump Farms

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Monday 17 October 2022 17:44 BST

Related: Giant house pig and hen form friendship amid avian flu ‘flockdown’

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Fans of a TikTok famous emu are sharing their well-wishes for the bird after his caretaker revealed that he contracted avian flu and is fighting for his life.

Emmanuel the emu became a recognisable figure on the social media app thanks to his cameos in his owner Taylor Blake’s TikTok videos. Blake, who runs Knuckle Bump Farms in South Florida, frequently shares videos about the animals on the farm with her more than 2.4m followers.

On Saturday, Blake revealed that many of the farm’s birds had contracted a deadly avian flu, and that all but two had died. “Hi friends. I’ve tried countless times to write this post, but it’s been extremely difficult for me,” she began. “We had a massive tragedy strike the farm, and I have been doing my best to wrap my head around it.”

Blake then revealed that the farm has had an “issue” with wild Egyptian Geese flying onto the farm, which she said resulted in the spread of avian flu.

“Not many people are aware of the dangers that wild birds pose to domesticated birds. Wild birds carry and transmit a deadly virus known as avian influenza. Our farm was heavily impacted by wild geese bringing in AI, and we lost 99 per cent of the birds on our farm,” she wrote.

Blake said she was still trying to “wrap [her] head around” the loss of more than 50 birds over the course of three days. She thought they were “out of the woods” when Emmanuel “unexpectedly went down this past Wednesday.”

In the Twitter thread, which included photos of the caretaker and human documentarian comforting the emu, she said that her vet was able to visit the farm and sedate and stabilise Emmanuel until she can find an avian specialist.

“I will do anything and go into any amount of debt to save his life,” she said, adding that she has been treating the emu around the clock since Wednesday.

Although Blake noted in the 15 October update that the emu is currently stable, she said he won’t eat or drink on his own.

“I am hand feeding him and giving him subcutaneous fluids every two hours around the clock,” she wrote. “The issue we are having is he has a bit of nerve damage in his right leg and foot, he went down in the middle of the night and we didn’t know until the next morning. He spent hours lying on one side and it’s caused some damage.”

Despite the emu’s illness, Blake said she remains optimistic and noted that Emmanuel is a “fighter.”

“This entire experience, albeit very traumatising, has taught me so much. I will always use my platform to spread awareness. To hopefully use the knowledge I’ve gained to save someone else from this heartbreak. AI is running rampant in the US right now, please be aware!” she continued, before revealing that, “for now, [she] is asking for prayer” and help from anyone who may have experience in “large bird physical therapy”.

“I am asking for any and all good energy sent his way. I am asking for anyone who has any experience with large bird physical therapy, please reach out to me. I would love to chat with you about options,” she said.

In the emotional post, Blake also revealed to her fans and followers that Emmanuel and Rico are the only birds who survived the deadly flu. The illness killed “every single chicken and duck” on the farm, as well as all of the geese, the farm’s two black swans and both of its turkeys. Emmanuel’s fellow TikTok stars Emily, Eliza and Elliott also succumbed to the bird flu.

“I cannot even begin to express the guttural feeling of watching innocent animals die. Daily. Innocent animals that did NOT deserve to die. It’s even harder to swallow the fact that we did nothing wrong, it was not our fault, and there’s nothing we could’ve done to prevent it,” she wrote.

Birds infected with avian flu, or bird flu, were found in Florida in January 2022, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The organisation said it had largely impacted black vultures, but that a bottlenose dolphin also tested positive.

While the viruses are “easily transmissible among birds,” according to the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “they rarely cause infections among people”.

On Twitter, Blake revealed that she and girlfriend Kristian Haggerty have since built Emmanuel a sling in the hopes of rehabilitating the bird. “He has a long road ahead, but I know in my heart that God is healing him. I know all of this won’t be in vain. I know that Emmanuel Todd Lopez will make a full recovery and will continue to spread love, light and joy,” she wrote.

The news of the emu’s illness has been met with an outpouring of support from his fans and followers, with many sharing their well-wishes for Emmanuel.

“This is heartbreaking. Y’all have brought us so much joy. Now, we are going to send you all our prayers and best wishes for health, strength and recovery,” one person tweeted.

Another said: “I’m so incredibly sorry you’re experiencing this. Your love and dedication to those wonderful animals is so evident. Sending you warmth, comfort and much healing. Lots of prayers for Emmanuel’s recovery.”

“I am so sorry for the loss of your flock. It’s so apparent that you cherish every life on your farm. I am hoping for Emmanuel’s recovery. He is so lucky to have you,” someone else wrote.

In a follow-up post on 16 October, Blake expressed her gratitude for the support. “I am so incredibly overwhelmed by the support and humbled that thousands of people all over the world are praying for and uplifting us. I may not have slept in days, but this girl is feeling so incredibly blessed. My gratitude and hope are unwavering! Thank you!” she wrote.

Blake also assured those that have expressed concerns about her handling of the flu that she has been taking all of the proper precautions as she continues to care for the emu.

“Just to clarify, I have taken every precaution recommended by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration),” she wrote. “Emmanuel is completely isolated and we sanitise before and after entering and exiting his stall. Again, we have been fully compliant with the state. We know the risks and we are abiding by the rules put in place for our farm. Thank you for the love and concern!”

In another post shared on Monday 17 October, Blake said that Emmanuel has continued to struggle with nerve damage and “wry neck”. She revealed that he has continued to improve and is “getting stronger daily.”

The Independent has contacted Blake for comment.

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