Rodents hit northwest China
( 2003-08-19 10:13) (China Daily)
More than 4.67 million hectares of grassland in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have been damaged by rodents so far this year, officials said.
Some 33,000 hectares were completely destroyed, mainly by the great gerbil (Rhombomys opimus). Some areas contained 790 rodent holes per hectare.
"It has been the most severe rodent disaster since 1993," said Xiong Ling, an official with the Xinjiang Headquarters for Controlling Locusts and Rodents.
Prior to the 1990s, rodent scourges broke out every four to five years.
An extensive eruption happened in 1990 in the Altay region. The authorities gave priority to prevention and control work and successfully brought the problem under control, as well as delaying the interval between each successive scourge.
But, since this spring, rodents have hit the Changji, Tacheng and Altay regions hard, with 1.5 million hectares of grassland severely damaged in those areas. The scourge has been expanding into the northern part of the Tianshan Mountain range.
Shayi Lawu, section chief of the headquarters, said: "It is hard to kill off the rodents because of their high breeding rate, which is two or three births a year with around eight rodents each time."
He said 70 rodents out of 180 species found in China live in Xinjiang, and the geographical landscape, including large mountains and forests, was favourable for rodents to breed.
''The rodent disaster causes great damage to the farmland, forest and grassland and with a lot of economic loss," he added.
Xiong said the headquarters started massive rodent-control work this spring. The aim was to save 1.6 million hectares of grassland but only 877,000 hectares were saved as the grass was quickly turning green and the rodents were growing quickly as a result.
''The continuing low temperatures this spring delayed the thawing of the ice, which made the campaign against the rodents more difficult," said Xiong.
She added that the rodent population also grew quickly because they are reaching the peak of their reproductive cycle this year.
To kill the rodents, the region is using biological poison, which causes less pollution, and is also raising eagles to eat the rodents.
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