CORRECTION: China Unlikely To Send ‘Army Of 100,000 Ducks’ To Battle Plague Of Locusts
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the fact China is very unlikely to send an army of 100,000 ducks to Pakistan in order to fight a plague of locusts ravaging crops there. The initial story originated from the Ningbo Evening News and reportedly has more than 520 million views on Chinese social media platform Weibo. The idea originated from when China sent ducks to fight a similar situation in its northwestern region of Xinjiang in 2000. The flaw in the story is that ducks need water and, in Pakistan’s desert area, the temperatures are extremely high, meaning water sources are more scarce.
Zhang Lhong, a professor from China Agricultural University, and who is part of the Chinese delegation sent to Pakistan to find solutions to the locust problem, told reporters in Pakistan: ‘Ducks rely on water, but in Pakistan’s desert areas, the temperature is very high’. He confirmed ducks had been used against locusts in ancient times, but their deployment ‘has not yet entered the government assistance programme’ and was an ‘exploratory method’ at best.
China’s army to combat the locust outbreak in Pakistan would have fit the bill, if the plan to send 100,000 ducks to fight a plague of locusts was a real one.
Officials had reportedly said the crop-munching desert locusts are a threat to the China’s regional food security, and so the prevention of a locust invasion from neighbouring Pakistan is of the utmost importance.
The pest situation is so severe in Pakistan that an emergency was declared earlier this month, with locust numbers at their highest in more than two decades – millions of the insects have also been decimating crops in India and East Africa. China had a plan: fowl play.
According to Lu Lizhi, a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the 100,000-strong waterfowl army will be rolled into Pakistan as early as the second half of this year, as per Bloomberg.
Lu – who’s in charge of the project alongside a university across the border – says the ducks are ‘biological weapons’, with a single duck having the capacity to eat 200 locusts a day and be more effective than pesticides.
Chickens, in comparison, can only eat 70 locusts a day. ‘Ducks like to stay in a group so they are easier to manage than chickens,’ Lu said to Chinese media. The plans come as experts were sent to Pakistan to assess the situation and develop ‘targeted programmes’ against the outbreak.
However, professor Zhang Long from the China Agriculture University and currently in Pakistan to aid the fight against the locust infestation, told reporters in Pakistan, ‘Ducks rely on water, but in Pakistan’s desert areas, the temperature is very high’.
He said ducks were used as an ancient technique to fight locust outbreaks but was last used in 2000 and questioned whether ducks would be suited to the mainly arid conditions in Pakistan. The duck army, as it’s been dubbed, ‘hasn’t yet entered the government assistance programme’ and was an ‘exploratory method’ currently.
Lu says a trial involving the ducks is set to take place in China’s western Xinjiang province in the coming months though.
There are currently no plans to roll out the army to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, all of which are battling ‘unprecedented’ and ‘devastating’ swarms of the insects, according to the UN (the current cost of fighting locusts in the continent has ballooned to a whopping $128 million).
This isn’t the first time the ducks have been employed by the country: back in 2000, a smaller 30,000-strong army was amassed and deployed to Xinjiang to tackle a past infestation of locusts.
The current infestations can reportedly be traced back to a spate of cyclones back in 2018-2019, which allowed ‘at least three generations of unprecedented breeding’ across the Arabian Peninsula.
However, there are solutions beyond the ducks – for example, local Pakistan newspaper reports are suggesting locals take advantage of the swarms and barbecue them, or even make a curry.
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