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TikTok's beloved emu Emmanuel fighting for his life after avian flu kills "99% of the birds" on his farm within days

Bird flu outbreak ravages poultry farms across U.S.
Bird flu outbreak ravages poultry farms across U.S. 02:26

An emu named Emmanuel has become one of TikTok's most beloved birds as his owner, Taylor Blake, posts videos of the animal's sassy behavior. But a deadly wave of avian flu has hit Blake's Knuckle Bump Farms, and now, Emmanuel is fighting for his life as one of two bird survivors. 

Blake announced on Saturday that the farm in was hit with a deadly bout of avian flu, saying that they have had a problem with wild Egyptian Geese flying onto the farm. At one point, there were as many as 50 of the wild geese on the South Florida farm, she said, and they carried the virus to her animals. 

"We lost 99% of the birds on our farm," Blake tweeted. "...We lost 50+ birds in 3 days."

The avian flu, otherwise known as the bird flu, has been making its way through Florida since it was detected in Palm Beach County in January, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed. Black vultures have been the animals most impacted by the virus since that time, the department said, although a deceased bottlenose dolphin also tested positive.

The department said it's suspecting an increase in infected species this fall.

"I cannot even begin to express the guttural feeling of watching innocent animals die. Daily. Innocent animals that did NOT deserve to die," Blake said. "It's even harder to swallow the fact that we did nothing wrong, it was not our fault, and there's nothing we could've done to prevent it."

Among the birds that died are Emmanuel's fellow TikTok stars, Emily, Eliza and Elliott. Blake said the farm also lost "every single chicken and duck," as well as all of their geese, both turkeys and two female black swans. The only birds left are Emmanuel and Rico, a swan. 

Initially, Blake thought Emmanuel had made it through unscathed but said that last Wednesday, he got sick. He soon stopped eating and drinking on his own. He also suffered nerve damage in his right leg and foot, prompting Blake and her girlfriend Kristian Haggerty to build him a sling for physical therapy to help him regain function. 

The situation has been "traumatizing," Blake said, but on Sunday, there came a moment of hope: Emmanuel drank water by himself for the first time since becoming sick. 

He has also been able to reposition himself in his sling, putting pressure on his right foot and even taking backward steps, Blake tweeted on Sunday.

"At this point, every small step feels like a milestone," she said. "...He is getting stronger, daily."

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