Hundreds of emus once raised as a delicacy are threatening to invade the southern Indian town of Erode, and officials are considering a full-scale slaughter to curb the problem.
Austrian Times writes that the operation had been bankrolled by investors claiming to export the meat to Australia, where emu is considered a prized meat. But the owners seemingly fled the farm, leaving behind flocks of emus without food or keepers. The farm's investors were reportedly involved in a target $71 million (£45) sting operation.
Officials say they must kill the birds before they break out and wreak havoc:
"We cannot afford an Emu riot in the city. We have to kill all the birds and auction the meat," said local tax inspector Sandeep Ganesh.
Emu farms have been popular in India since 2006 thanks to several high-profile media campaigns, and about 250 farms opened in the state of Tamil Nadu over the course of five years. Things have changed, however; the Times of India explains that the "bubble burst," and many farmers have come forward saying they've been cheated and have suffered losses. Now, officials from nearby city Salem are advising farmers not to invest in the emu business.
U.K. publication The Independent writes that the emu farms were "essentially a large Ponzi scheme" that has since collapsed. Up to 20,000 investors -- with anywhere between 40,000 and 100,000 unwanted emus -- have been left to recover their money. The men behind it all have reportedly fled with the invested funds:
Police say efforts are underway to seize the assets of five firms that operated in the town of Perundurai, the most notorious of which appears have been Susi Emu Farms, which was founded by MS Guru. Mr Guru is among those missing. A further 23 firms are under the watch of the Tamil Nadu police.
Now, swindled investors are relying on the local government to recover at least some of the money. The Australian spoke with an official who said authorities are doing the best they can. "I have some buyers arriving from Hyderabad," he added.