After years of drought, farmers in eastern Australia have been facing rats devouring their crops for months.
Determined and abundant, rats feed on farmers’ grain and hay stocks, and they 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. After years of drought, the devastating wildfires of 2019 and the ensuing floods, Australia is facing a new crisis.
“My dad is still alive, he’s 93, which is the worst three years of his life. I think this is the worst mouse invasion ever recorded,” Mr. Dink, a rancher, told AFP. He fears.
“If we don’t have a very cold and humid winter, I’m a little worried about what will happen in the spring,” the 65-year-old fears.
Steve Henry, a researcher at CSIRO, the Center for Public Scientific Research, did not see things in a good light for his part: “When such an invasion of rats ends, they will disappear overnight, which we do not currently see.”
A bumper harvest allowed them to multiply
The highest number of rodents was reported in October alone, and a bumper harvest, after a severe drought, allowed them to multiply.
“If we don’t have a harsh winter anymore, the rats will have enough to survive all year, so it will become chronic,” said Bill Batman, an associate professor at Curtin University in Western Australia, explaining that the changing climate often causes this to happen.
In search of solutions, the Australian government announced a multi-million dollar aid package 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.
“We’re really going to get in trouble in the future”
Experts believe that its use and environment will last a long time. 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.”
For Steve 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.