Kenya declares war against millions of birds. Here's why

Kenya declares war against millions of birds. Here's why

The method of choice for fighting the pests in Africa is the spraying of fenthion.

Kenya's government began to kill up to 6 million red-billed quelea birds, world's most populous bird species which are also known as 'feathered locusts'. The birds can form nomadic super-colonies of up to 30 million, feeding on crops such as wheat, barley, rice, sunflowers and corn.

Why Kenya wants to kill red-billed quelea birds?

The Horn of Africa -- the eastern side of the African continent consisting of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, Kenya and South Sudan -- is facing its longest and most severe drought on record, threatening millions of people with starvation. The continuing drought has reduced the amount of native grass, who seeds are main food source of the quelea birds. Following this, reports have emerged saying that the birds are increasingly invading grain fields.

So far, 300 acres of rice fields have been destroyed by the birds in Kenya, multiple dailies based out of Nairobi reported. 

A flock of 2 million can consume 50 tonnes of grain in a day, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). 

Farmers in western Kenya stand to lose close to 60 tonnes of grain to the birds. In 2021, the FAO estimated crop losses attributable to the birds amounted to $50m (£40m) annually, The Guardian reported. 

Anti-quelea drive to have consequences for other wild species: Experts

The method of choice for fighting the pests in Africa is the spraying of fenthion. This pesticide has been described by researchers as "toxic to humans and to other non-target organisms". 

Experts quoted in the media have warned against the use of fenthion to kill red-billed quelea. 

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"Those on the raptor conservation side of the fence are greatly alarmed at the spraying. Today, all raptors (in Kenya) are endangered. In any case, how effective has the spraying been in the last 60 to 70 years?," Simon Thomsett, a director at Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

Fenthion has been listed in Annex III of the Rotterdam convention that aims to reduce risks from hazardous chemicals in agriculture. 

Quelea invasion frequently occurs in many African countries. Last year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released $500,000 to the government of Tanzania to support pesticide spraying, surveillance and capacity-building after 21 million quelea invaded crop fields across the country. 

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