Dubo (Australia) (AFP)
After years of drought, farmers in eastern Australia have been facing rats devouring their crops for months.
A farmer named Cole Ding, near Dubois, a small remote town in New South Wales, is equipped with a broom that chases hundreds of rats into a large watt, in which they drown.
This time he is the only one to prevent this agony from hitting so many farms east of the vast island-continent.
But so far his efforts have not been fruitful. Mice regularly feed on its grain and hay stocks, and they do not prey on any edible material.
In the gruesome videos that have toured the world, thousands of rats gather in barns, homes, and move exponentially in crowds.
It is the latest disaster to hit Australian farmers in the wake of years of drought, several months of wildfires in late 2019 and subsequent flooding.
“My dad is still alive, he’s 93, which is the worst three years of his life. I think it’s the worst mouse invasion on record,” Catman Ding said.
He fears that this misery will continue into the southern winter, which begins in June.
“If we don’t have a very cold and wet winter, I’m a little worried about what will happen in the spring,” said the 65-year-old AFP.
Steve Henry, a researcher at CSIRO, the Center for Public Scientific Research, is still hopeless.
“When such an invasion of rats ends, they will disappear overnight, which we no longer see,” says Henry, an insect expert for nearly three decades.
The rats landed in Australia with the first British settlers.
This little rodent is linked to the climate, with good and bad performance of Australian agriculture. So this misery happens often, but this year it has reached new heights.
– “A dangerous slope” –
This year’s numbers are “simply astronomical,” says Terry Fishpool, 74, a grain farmer at NSW, Tottenham.
The highest number of rodents was reported in October alone, and a bumper harvest, after a severe drought, allowed them to multiply.
Bill Batman, an associate professor at Curtin University in Western Australia, estimates that so far these mouse invasions have occurred only once a decade, but that climate change may be the most common.
“If we don’t have a harsh winter anymore, it will be enough for the rats to survive throughout the year, so it will become chronic,” says Batman.
Faced with this agony, the Australian government has announced a multi-million dollar aid program and developed a powerful pesticide, promethazine, which has not yet been approved by authorities.
But this antifungal, which acts faster and more efficiently than the pesticides that are so prevalent so far, has the disadvantage of staying longer in the body of dead or dying mice.
So experts fear it will kill the animal as well, and then it will eat the poisoned rats.
“The use of this second-generation rodent control product is of great concern,” said Batman of the School of Molecular and Life Sciences.
“This is a dangerous slope” and its long-term use and stay in the environment. By killing natural predators, it could poison humans through the food chain, he said.
“In the future we’re really going to get ourselves in trouble, not only by destroying our biodiversity, but also by destroying our defenses against future mouse invasion.”
According to Henry, pesticides, traps and previously used methods can help reduce the number of rats if the number of rats continues to increase after the winter.
According to him the priority is to find long-term solutions, including the causes of this “biggest” scourge.
© 2021 AFP