5 million invasive quelea birds culled in Tanzania to protect grain crops

More than 5 million invasive quelea birds have been killed in a mass cull in Tanzania to protect paddy farms, officials said Tuesday.

The move led by the Tanzania Plant Health and Pesticides Authority (TPHPA) is said to have been initiated after the small-sized birds invaded more than 1,000 acres of rice farmland in the northern Manyara region, causing extensive losses.

Gladman Mbukoi, a pests and outbreaks control expert at TPHPA, said the birds are capable of destroying more than 50 tons of food crops in a single day.

Mbukoi said the operation was a success although a bit challenging as the weaver birds had enveloped the entire region, descending upon the paddy fields and voraciously feasting.

According to him, experts conducted overnight aerial spraying for four days to kill the swarms of birds.

Local farmers in the Magugu village, Manyara, acknowledged. “We have incurred huge losses. Although we tried to scare them away, the flocks of birds were just too big to be controlled by ourselves,” Kisa Mawazo, a paddy farmer, told Anadolu over phone.

Kanas Sulu, an extension officer in Babati district, confirmed the farmers were affected due to the infestation, prompting local authorities to seek assistance from TPHPA.

Officials said bird invasions are rife during the onset of the dry season in September and October.

“We are fully prepared to combat such incursions with cutting-edge technology, including drones, environmentally friendly chemicals, and an effective workforce,” said Juma Mwinyimkuu, the acting manager at TPHPA northern zone.

Quelea birds, thought to be the most numerous bird species in the world, are notorious for destroying grains such as wheat and rice in Africa, and both aerial and ground efforts to contain them have been initiated by governments in the continent.

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