With its reputed ability to disembowel a human with a single blow, it is not the kind of creature one normally expects to encounter in the gentle countryside of the Home Counties.
But a swathe of Hertfordshire is on high alert for a 6ft tall bird which has escaped from its enclosure where it was kept as a pet.The media are whipping up quite a bit of hysteria over this – you’d think it was dangerous.
The creatures are omnivorous, often eating insects and small vertebrates, as well as their preferred large-leafed plants, and they are said to be – usually – of a timid nature. However, the RSPCA have warned locals not to approach the runaway rhea if they spot it. Instead, they should report sightings to the organisation.
An RSPCA spokesman said: “They look nice but they are so strong it’s unbelievable. They aren’t listed as a dangerous animal but can kill you with one strike of their feet because their claws are six inches long. They will also go for your eyes with their beak.”Well, yes, that’s just a natural defence mechanism against predators and other threats.