An emu named Mary was shot and killed by an unknown assailant last week. The why has not yet been determined. The reward offered to find Mary’s killer has just been increased to $5,000. And no, it won’t bring her back but it may help provide answers to why, how and who.
Mary was living at Rikki’s Refuge since 2006, a no-kill sanctuary in Orange County, Virginia. She was a shy bird who didn’t want to socialize with the other emus at the sanctuary, so she was given her own space with a goat called Gandolf who incidentally, didn’t like other goats. They became best friends.
Later on a pair of emus, Windy and Wonda, who were not comfortable with the already established emu herd, joined the pair. Then a shy pig named Beau became the fifth animal to become a member of this unlikely multi-species family. They spent some happy years together until January 7, 2014 when a bullet from places unknown shot into Mary’s leg, rupturing arteries, causing her to bleed out very quickly.
“Mary was very loving to the few humans she knew well,” said Kerry Hilliard, Executive Director and Founder of Rikki’s Refuge. “She’d come and rest her head on my shoulder and lean against me with her long neck.”
The Fateful Day
It was breakfast time and a staff member was about to feed the five member family when he received a call for help at the horse area at Rikki’s Refuge. He was gone no longer than 15 minutes and upon returning discovered Mary on the ground, barely breathing and lying in pools of her own blood. His screams brought the medical team running but it was too late. Mary died quickly. The necropsy estimated she bleed out within 15 minutes from a gunshot wound.
You would think working at an animal sanctuary would not put you in harm’s way from humans with guns. Since Mary’s death, sanctuary staff is concerned about another incident of gunfire endangering not just the animal’s lives but the human caregivers as well.
When asked about staff reactions to the killing, Hilliard wrote, “It’s making it harder to fill the positions with people asking, ‘Could I get shot?’”
About Rikki’s Refuge
Rikki’s Refuge sits on about 400 acres of wooded land in Virginia’s Orange County. The central 100 acres are cleared for the sanctuary’s buildings and pens where the animals live and are cared for.
Just under 1,300 animals of 22 different species live there. Domestic animals include cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and iguana. A lot of farm animals call it home; emus, pigs (both pot and farm), donkeys, horses, cows, goats, sheep and farm birds like chickens, ducks, geese, and so on are among them.
Generous donations have flooded in which has allowed Rikki’s Rescue to increase the reward from its original $1,000 to the current $5,000.
The sanctuary has five major programs including:
Next page: The Investigation
All photos of Mary courtesy of Kerry Hilliard
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