China’s grasslands under attack from rats

2010-05-27 14:29

A plague of rats has gobbled up vast swathes of grasslands in north

China, sparking a mass extermination drive amid concerns for herders.

The proliferation has left holes across 65 000 km of Inner Mongolia,

making it difficult for herders to ride their horses, whose hooves can get

caught up, the official People’s Daily newspaper reported.

Authorities have launched a massive extermination drive, with more

than 1 000 tonnes of poison dumped over the affected grasslands, an area the

size of Sri Lanka, in an effort to control the number of rats.

The population explosion has been caused by a rise in temperature

since the start of May, as well as overgrazing, which suits the rodents’ natural

habitat as they prefer to live in shorter grasses.

The number of predators, such as foxes, eagles and snakes, has also

dropped sharply in the grasslands, due in part to pollution, particularly the

large-scale use of pesticides, the report said.

Grasslands in Inner Mongolia have long been at risk of

desertification due to excessive farming, overgrazing and drought.

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