The emus, buffaloes and skunks that went on the run in 2023

Dini and Blu on the loose outside a veterinary surgery
Image caption,Emus Dini and Blu went on the run after strong winds blew down their enclosure

Given there are more than 17 million pet-owning homes in the UK, it stands to reason that our quick-thinking animal friends will seek out greener grass beyond the boundaries of their usual homes. These are some of the East of England’s most unusual animal escapes of 2023.

Last month strong winds blew down Dini and Blu’s enclosure in Essex.

The emus, which belong to Lucia Muralyi, in Purleigh, near Maldon, saw their chance for adventure and took it.

While Mrs Muralyi endured sleepless nights, all-day searching and an expectation of coming across the dead bodies of her beloved birds, Dini and Blu were heading towards the car park of a nearby veterinary practice.

“We had been going about our normal day and then these two birds come wandering through our car park,” Nicola Watson, manager of the EdgeWood surgery, said.

“They wandered out the back and then through our garden, and were terrorising our poor clients in their cars.

“We had to rally them back round because they were causing a little bit of mayhem out the front for our clients and they were a little bit scared of them.”

The emus were given a short break at at the Maldon Promenade Petting Zoo before they were reunited with Mrs Muralyi.

Lucia Muralyi
Image caption,Lucia Muralyi said she “cried and cried” when she was reunited with her emus, Dini and Blu

A month on and the emus are doing well, said Mrs Muralyi.

A 2m (6ft 6in)-high fence has gone up around their enclosure.

Mrs Muralyi, who has four emus and various other animals, said: “I was really upset when two of them went missing. They were like my babies – I hatched them after putting their eggs in an incubator.”

During the colder months, the emus, which have a life expectancy of about 20 years, live in the garage at night with the option of exploring their enclosure during the day.

“The ones who went are both fine and well after their adventure,” she said. “But it was a desperate three days for me.”

Police flock for sheep round-up

Police officer with a sheep
Image caption,Ewe couldn’t make it up…

In June, sheep were reported “running amok” in Baldock, Hertfordshire.

Officers were sent in to round the escaped flock in the North Road area.

A police spokesperson said: “We bleated at them to stay out of the road but they thought we were a bit woolly and decided to go on the lamb [sic] instead.

“Thankfully they didn’t try to ram us off the road, otherwise they would now be behind baaas.”

The runaways were safely shepherded back to their owner.

Reining in the reindeer

Earlier this month, drivers on the A11 near Mildenhall in Suffolk got a shock when they came across reindeer in the road.

The Elveden Estate said Blue and Blitzen, who were part of a Christmas Santa event, had “got spooked and jumped the fence”.

Oliver Connolly filmed them before the dual carriageway was closed by police as a precaution and said: “It was like a scene from a movie.”

The animals were on the run for a number of hours before being caught and taken back to safety.

Runaway Rodney

Emu and police officer
Image caption,Suffolk police officer Alex Hale popped by to check Rodney the emu had got home safely

Dini and Blu were not the only emus to make a dash for it this year.

One-year-old Rodney jumped a fence at his Suffolk home in April forcing his owner Jon Cardy to return early from his first holiday in years.

Mr Cardy, a former consultant in anaesthesia and critical care medicine, and his wife, Laura, a former frontline NHS nurse, and now a nursing lecturer, took in Rodney when the emu was just two weeks old.

A day was spent searching on social media for any sightings before the bird was eventually found a mile away.

Mr Cardy said he was “so relieved” to have him back home.

The bullocks of Biggleswade

Some animal escapes are less amusing.

In October, people in Biggleswade discovered bullocks on the loose.

Footage was shared showing a herd assembling in a garden.

The incident led to calls to keep the bullocks that graze on a nearby common under better control.

Residents said action needed to be taken as each year they keep getting into people’s gardens and causing damage.

The owner of the common, Fen Reeves, said it had been in touch with concerned residents and the issues raised had been discussed.

The water buffalo and the swimming pool

In July, a herd of water buffalo escaped from a farm near Colchester, Essex.

Living up to their name, the herd made their way to a newly built swimming pool at a private home.

CCTV captured the moment the animals fell through the pool cover and into the water, causing £25,000 of damage.

The pool’s owners received compensation for the damage and the farmer managed to rescue the beasts unharmed.

An NFU Mutual spokesperson confirmed the insurance claim had been “settled and paid”.

Hunt for a skunk

Wiggy the skunk
Image caption,Missing Wiggy’s owner is desperate he will still be found safe and well

Not all animals which go on the run are found.

In October, Witham-based skunk Wiggy went missing from his home.

Despite various sightings, he still remains at large.

Owner Kim Shelley described Wiggy as “a bit of a character… who loves a cuddle” and had never emitted a pungent smell.

The skunk, who is a year old, joined the family in June.

Ms Shelley described him as “like a bull in a china shop – once he gets moving, nothing’s going to stop him”.

His owner, who has three other skunks, hoped the power of social media would help find her missing pet.

She said she would take some chicken legs to the nearby allotments when she finished work and see if that would tempt him back.

Her efforts have not led to her being reunited with Wiggy.

She said he was most recently spotted a few weeks ago in the Tiptree and Messing area.

“I still miss him terribly and hope someone spots him again soon,” Ms Shelley said.

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