Hertfordshire escaped rhea: Threat to kill 'issued'

The rhea has been missing for several weeks

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People trying to find an escaped 6ft-tall bird capable of running at 40mph say there has been a threat to kill it.

Rita the rhea disappeared from Jo Clark's smallholding close to the Essex/Hertfordshire border, last month.

It has been spotted in nearby Anstey and at Barkway Park Golf Club, but keeps disappearing.

Searcher Jane Garner said someone rang to say they would shoot it, although Rita's owner said the South American bird was not dangerous.

Jo Clarke Jo Clarke said her bird was not dangerous, although the RSPCA advice was to ring 101
Rita the rhea A photograph of Rita was taken in a field in the Brent Pelham area

The RSPCA said: "Rheas are large birds and have the potential to be dangerous as they are strong, fast and have sharp claws.

"Our advice to the general public is keep well away and call us or the police on 101 if they see the bird."

'Upsetting threat'

Ms Garner said: "I have unfortunately had a call and the person told me they had a firearms licence and that he was going to shoot it.

"I implored him not to - it's doing no harm and there are lots of people badly trying to find a way to catch it."

Rheas Rita shared her pen with three younger rheas which are not fully grown

The rhea, which is similar to an ostrich, is six years old and normally lives with three other rheas on its owner's land at Starling's Green.

"It's upsetting to hear someone say they'd shoot it," Ms Clark said.

"It's gone silly, but it's a large chicken and it isn't going to hurt anybody, I promise you.

"It's been hand-reared and they don't kick, they don't bite and she'll just run away from anyone."

Charmaine Lake, who spotted Rita on the golf course, said she did not feel threatened by the bird.

"She didn't seem like she was going to come charging at me, so I was quite happy," she said.

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