Govt selects 615 rat hunters to curb rat menace    

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The government has identified 615 rat hunters to bolster its efforts to prevent rodents from devouring the country’s main staple rice and destroying other agricultural outputs while experts favour the conservation of rat predators in nature for the purpose.

The identification of rat hunters throughout the country was notified on September 17 by the department of agriculture extension as part of its ongoing programme to exterminate rats that cause annual losses of rice worth over Tk 700 crore.

DAE director general Md Abdul Muyeed told New Age on Sunday that already an expert pool was created since the DAE had been encouraging the mouse extermination programme for many years.

The current approach of selecting over 600 hunters throughout the country was the first of its kind, he said.

The DAE would capitalise on the hunting skills of the hunters and transfer the technique to others, he added.

Lauding the DAE programme, Dhaka University’s Zoology Department professor Mohammad Firoj Jaman said that conserving predators like snake, monitor lizard, hawk, owl, jackal and mongoose would be more sustainable for preventing the growing rat population.   

He said the rat population was rising because of the breakdown in the ‘predator and prey relationship’.

The number of predators preying on rats was falling in the country due to loss of their habitats amid development work to turn the villages into towns, he said.

Som Tudu, a 45-year old farmer at village Brammanvita under Birganj upazila in Dinajpur said that he was not aware about his selection as a mouse hunter in the DAE list.

Claiming himself as a natural rat hunter, Tudu said he had been trapping rats for long for protecting his paddy field.

The rat menace with the advent of aman rice harvest had increased so much that he trapped 50 mice on an average every night in the last one week, he said.

The rats weighing from 300 grams to 500 grams were trapped, he said.  

The Plant Protection Wing of the DAE in its publication on rat prevention said 18 types of rats were identified in the country which can be exterminated by applying a number of traps.

Besides, acute and chronic poisoning along with preservation of wild cat, mongoose, jackal and owl has been suggested by the wing for curbing rat menace.

The agricultural sector is bearing the brunt as 4 per cent of the country’s annual agricultural output had been eaten up by rats, said the DAE officials.

In 2017, the country produced 3.7 crore tonnes of rice wheat and corn, and 30.06 lakh tonnes of vegetable, but rats alone destroyed 15 lakh tonnes.

On June 22, 2015, then agriculture minister Matia Chowdhury told in parliament that rats damaged food grains, including paddy, rice and wheat worth around Tk 723.72 core in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Firoj Jaman said that rats have a life span of maximum five years and usually breed three times a year while, each time, 16-20 offspring are produced.

Bangladesh Agricultural University’s Department of Agronomy head Dr Md Abdus Salam said that controlling rat with traps and poison was not an easy task.

Natural ways of controlling rat population was preferable to hunting, he said and lamented the fact that bushes and hedges, natural abode for predators, were being destroyed.  

Syama Pradad Saha, another selected mouse hunters by the DAE, said that he kept 10 cats in his rice mill to contain the mouse.

The 65-year old Pradad of Shologhar in Munshiganj district said he adopted other methods like setting traps, but still preferred the natural ways for controlling the rat population.

He said his selection as a mouse hunter carried no special meaning to him as he had been exterminating rats for protecting rice fields and mills since long time ago.

He was awarded a crest and a certificate in 2017-18 for rat hunting he engaged in of his own accord.

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