Tanzanian authorities have undertaken a mass culling of five million quelea birds in Manyara, Tanzania, aiming to protect vital rice fields from devastating losses. The operation, led by the Tanzania Plant Health and Pesticides Authority (TPHPA), was initiated in response to an invasion of over 1,000 acres of rice farmland in the northern Manyara region by these small-sized birds, causing extensive agricultural damage.
Quelea birds, recognized as one of the world’s most numerous bird species, are infamous for ravaging crops like wheat and rice across Africa. Governments in the continent have previously employed both aerial and ground strategies to contain their impact.
Gladman Mbukoi, an expert in pest and outbreak control at TPHPA, highlighted the quelea birds’ astonishing capacity to destroy more than 50 tonnes of food crops in a single day.
“We are fully prepared to combat such incursions with cutting-edge technology, including drones, environmentally friendly chemicals, and an effective workforce,” stated Juma Mwinyimkuu, acting manager at TPHPA’s northern zone.
The mass culling has generated mixed reactions from environmentalists and animal rights activists. While some have decried the action as cruel and unnecessary, others have recognized the imperative to safeguard farmers’ livelihoods.
John Magige, a conservation biologist at the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, expressed his concern, stating, “The killing of five million birds is a tragedy. Quelea birds play an important role in the ecosystem, and their populations have been declining in recent years.”
Maggie advocated for non-lethal methods to protect crops from birds, such as the use of netting, scarecrows, and ultrasonic devices. He also called for the adoption of sustainable farming practices to reduce the reliance on pesticides and herbicides, which can harm bird populations.
“We need to find a balance between protecting farmers’ livelihoods and conserving biodiversity,” he emphasized.
TPHPA defended the mass culling, emphasizing its necessity to ensure the country’s food security.
“We understand the concerns of environmentalists and animal rights activists, but we have to make difficult decisions to protect our farmers and ensure that our people have enough to eat,” said Joseph Ndunguru, the acting director-general of TPHPA.
Ndunguru revealed that TPHPA is actively working on developing non-lethal methods to control quelea bird populations, although these methods are still in their early stages of development.
“In the meantime, we have to use the tools that we have available to protect our farmers and our food security,” he concluded.