YANGON—The Shan State government has provided villages with hundreds of snakes in an effort to control rat infestations that have destroyed rice crops.
For the past three years, many villages in the state’s Pekon Township have been plagued by infestations of rats, which have gnawed their way through many hectares of paddy fields.
In an effort to protect the crops, the state has provided villages with nonvenomous snakes in the hope that the rodent-eating reptiles will bring the rat population under control, according to Dr. Nyi Nyi Aung, the Shan State minister for resources and environmental conservation.
Villagers are also being provided with mousetraps and poison to defend their crops from the rat infestation.
Last week the state government distributed more than 200 snakes to villages in order to suppress the rat populations in the affected areas, Dr. Nyi Nyi Aung told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
The biological method of protecting rice and other cereal crops was adopted at the suggestion of rodent experts at the Forestry Department, he said.
The department supplied the state government with nonvenomous snakes seized from smugglers who had been attempting to illegally export the reptiles to China.
U Phoe Maung, a member of the Lower House (Pyithu Hluttaw) representing Pekon Township, told The Irrawaddy that local authorities had distributed more than 400 bags of rice to the affected villages, as most of their paddy fields had been wiped out.
‘”Villagers from the area used to eat rats. But the rat population is so large they aren’t able to reduce it,” the lawmaker said.
According a report from a local news agency, some local residents were afraid of the snakes, which were released into forests near their villages.
In one news report, however, Ko Michael, a spokesperson for the Kayah Rural Development Organization (KRD), criticized the state government for not releasing the snakes earlier, when the rat population was at its highest.
The state ministers had failed to help the villagers when the crisis was at its worst, he was quoted as saying.
State ministers and lawmakers did not provide figures on how many villages were affected, or how many rice fields had been destroyed.
In June 2017, thousands of rats swarmed villages in Ayeyarwady Region’s Ngapudaw Township, devastating local crops.
Following that infestation, rodent experts from the Agriculture Ministry’s Plant Protection Division studied the causes of rodent infestations in villages. They found that rat populations can double when they have access to bamboo fruit, which causes reproduction rates to spike.
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