Australia | “The only good mouse is a dead mouse”

After a historic drought, devastating forest fires and the worst flooding in 50 years, Australia now faces a plague of mice, which threaten the crops and economy of the eastern part of the country. So much so that the rodent is now public enemy number one. “The only good mouse is a dead mouse,” the Australian Deputy Prime Minister recently declared.


Posted on 1is June 2021 at 6:30 am


Updated at 7:06 am

Eric-Pierre Champagne
Press

Mice everywhere

Since March, Australia has faced one of the worst mouse invasions in its history. These devour the crops of the farmers. They enter homes and have even temporarily deprived thousands of subscribers of service after eating wires from a telephone exchange. Farmers complain that they cannot deal with it. They sneak into grocery stores, hospitals and even cause fires in homes. “Trying to count them would be like trying to count the number of stars in the sky,” said Steve Henry, a researcher at the Australian National Science Agency. It is enough to do a search in Google with the keywords “mouse” (mouse) and “Australia” (Australia) to find hundreds of videos illustrating the extent of the phenomenon.

PHOTO RICK RYCROFT, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mice reproduce very quickly.

Take out the heavy artillery

The government has already set up a program to counter the epidemic: bait is provided free of charge to capture rodents. But the state of New South Wales, in the east of the country, still brought out the heavy artillery in the hope of defeating it. It was recently confirmed that we have ordered 5,000 liters of the potent and controversial pesticide bromadiolone. Experts consider the product too dangerous since it could accumulate in soils used for agriculture. The product is also potent enough to poison other animals known to feed on mice. On the other hand, the pressure group NSW Farmers estimates that the economic losses caused by this “epidemic” could total 1 billion Australian dollars (932 million CAN). “We have to take this route because we need a very powerful product, the equivalent of napalm, to overcome these mice,” said the Minister of Agriculture of New Wales. South, Adam Marshall.

Recurring invasions

This is not the first invasion of mice in Australia, a phenomenon that usually occurs every 10 years, after an episode of drought followed by heavy rains. However, the country has been hit hard by drought in recent years, which has also caused huge forest fires. Torrential rains and floods were added thereafter. As a bonus, changes in agricultural practices also seem to be involved. While the farmers used to burn their fields before sowing again, they started to leave the old plants on the ground for environmental reasons about fifteen years ago. However, this practice favors mice, which simply find more food to proliferate. Moreover, according to the National Science Agency, such phenomena are observed only in China and Australia, but science is not yet able to provide convincing explanations.

PHOTO JILL GRALOW, REUTERS

Norman Moeris tries to get rid of the mice on his farm using traps.

Two mice and let’s go …

A single mouse can give birth to up to ten cubs every three weeks. Their number can therefore quickly explode if the conditions are favorable to them. The species also shows a great capacity for adaptation. Unable until now to control this invasion, the authorities hope that the winter, from May to October in Australia, can significantly reduce their number. But if they survive the cold in greater numbers than expected, their populations could explode again in the spring. According to the National Science Agency, it takes between 800 and 1000 mice per hectare to speak of an epidemic. One hectare is roughly equivalent to a football field.

In the land of mice

In this country used to living with mice, there is a website and an application called Mouse Alert, which tracks the progress of an epidemic. For its part, the National Science Agency regularly produces reports on the situation and devotes efforts to research on the issue.

 
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