From the Viewsroom

The mice invasion

Ravikanth Nandula | Updated on June 01, 2021

Australia is battling it dangerously — with a banned chemical

The people of New South Wales are fighting their third battle against nature in less than two years. That is, not counting the pandemic raging across the globe. The latest one is against mice, as the state faces a mouse plague situation. The bushfires that burned for eight months between 2019 and 2020 came during a long drought period in the state. A good rainy season that followed made for abundant crop output. But, as harvesting began, came in the mice. The fully stocked silos of the farmers were an invitation to a feast.

Millions of mice have invaded fields, godowns, businesses, homes, and indeed, whole towns. Some video clips shared on social media show armies of mice crawling all over homes, falling like rain from harvesters, jumping out of their burrows hundreds at a time and, speeding out from under parked vehicles in an unending flow.

With the numbers of natural predators of farm mice dwindling over time, the authorities have decided that there are just not enough owls, kites, hawks, or other predators at the moment to control the mice the natural way. A decision was taken to use a strong — but banned — chemical, Bromadiolone, to fight the plague.

While the pesticide is strong enough to give the authorities an edge in the battle, ecologists are warning that it may harm both the prey and the predator. A mouse killed by the poison is likely to kill the bird that eats it. Further, food grain that comes in contact with the mouse-poison is risky for human consumption. It may leave a trace in soil and biologically accumulate in insects leading to poisoning the food to be grown in the future, they warn.

Mouse plague is not so uncommon in Australia. The rural parts of the country have faced it almost once every decade over the past century. But this time, the economic costs seem to be higher than ever, with some early estimates putting it above $100 million. The desperate solution undertaken by the authorities might compound the cost, some are worried.

Published on June 01, 2021

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