Australian officials have proposed building underpasses for emus to protect the birds from traffic on one of the country's busiest highways.

Avian experts say the plan is well intentioned, but the birds, which can grow to 2m, are probably too stupid to ever use them.

The New South Wales roads authority wants to minimise the effect of an upgrade of the Pacific Highway, which will cut through emu foraging and breeding areas in Clarence Valley.

"There are also four dedicated underpass structures designed for the emus, three 5.5m high and the other 4m high," said a spokesman.


A final decision will be made later in the year. However, Gary Whale, of Birdlife Australia, said he was pessimistic about the birds ever using them, given their lack of intelligence.

He warned, however, that the upgrade could lead to the bird's extinction.

"They need a certain critical number to survive and if you cut them in half, and have half on either side of this new road, then it virtually guarantees their extinction," he said. According to a National Parks census only 120 remain in the Clarence Valley.

- Staff reporter