Lisbon emu on his way to Georgia sanctuary

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LISBON — After a three-month push to finance an emu’s $3,000 journey to a new home in Georgia, Ralphie is on his way.

The emu has been in the care of Janet Tuttle at Rockin’ T Equine Sanctuary and Rescue in Lisbon for a decade. Ralphie came there after an animal control officer picked him up in Bowdoinham.

Since then, Tuttle struggled to find the right food, veterinary care, and enough space for the bird — part of the second-largest bird species behind the ostrich.

Ralphie escaped in June, but was recaptured the next day. His foray prompted a push to find him a more secure, permanent home.

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia, agreed to take Ralphie, the $3,000 cost stood in the way.

“I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to do it,” Tuttle said. “It’s hard to even get money for the horses sometimes.”

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Some of Tuttle’s volunteers helped organize a T-shirt fundraiser. Pat Thompson of East Coast Equine Transport will drive him there, a 22-hour trip.

“Normally, it costs about $3,500 when she has a full load with horses,” Tuttle said. “She was willing to drop the price.

“He has his food, his water and his grapes. I’m going to be checking on him once he gets down there and I have the numbers to call throughout,” Tuttle said.

It took about 20 minutes to get Ralphie on the trailer Monday. Tuttle said he wasn’t in the mood to move. She was on the receiving end of a kick, but says she’ll miss caring for the bird.

“It’s sad, but he’s better off there,” Tuttle said. “We cared for him for 10 years and it was fine, but we did all we could for him.”

Ralphie will join more than 1,500 exotic wild and domestic animals, including nearly 60 emus. The bird will have easier access to proper veterinary care and nutrition.

Tuttle estimates Ralphie is about 19 years old, putting him at about two-thirds the expected lifespan of an emu in captivity.

Tuttle’s sanctuary continues to provide a safe home for horses, but Ralphie likely will be its last emu.

“No more adventures with emus for me,” she said.

Janet Tuttle feeds Ralphie, an emu that has lived at her Rockin’ T Equine Sanctuary and Rescue in Lisbon for the past 10 years. She was able to raise enough money to get the bird to a sanctuary in Georgia where he’ll join 60 others and get better care. (Chris Quattrucci/The Times Record)

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