China is massively hit by the coronavirus. But another plague is about to hit the Middle Kingdom: Locusts, billions of locusts, currently wreaking havoc in East Africa, Pakistan and India.
The country has turned to an army of ducks to fight off the billions of locusts arriving at its borders from Africa.
The plague of as many as 360 billion insects has so far devastated East Africa before moving over Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India.
Chinese authorities have dispatched the 100,000 birds to its Xinjiang border in the far west of the country, where it meets Pakistan and India as the locusts continue to swarm eastwards.
Pakistan declared a national emergency because the grasshoppers caused food shortages by destroying crops.
Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, called the event “the worst locust attack in decades”.
A video shared by China’s state-run news site CGTN shows thousands of ducks waddling in legions down a road on their way to face the insects.
One Twitter user said the ducks “look like the allies troops here”.
The brown birds, dubbed “duck troops” by Chinese media, have been used to tackle locust infestations before and can be more effective than pesticides.
A resident named Wang, from Xinjiang, told Chinese newspaper Global Times that previous locust outbreaks happened in the end of summer and autumn in the region’s grassland areas.
But winter temperatures combined with a lack of grass in the region makes life difficult for locusts.
Wang explained that a division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps in Hami used to prevent the locust outbreak by raising ducks and chickens.
He said one duckling can “control” a 4sqm of land and eat the locusts.
Using ducks to prevent locust plague is economically and environmentally friendly compared with spraying pesticides, according to Wang.
The locusts are edible and are considered a delicacy in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
They are supposedly tasty when battered in breadcrumbs and fried in oil.
In 2017, farmers who lost crops due to the locust plague got their revenge by catching the critters and selling those for food instead.
“Our corn harvest would be reduced, for sure, but catching locusts brought me a lot more money,” a local told Beijing News at the time.
In this latest outbreak – said to be the worst in 25 years – one swarm of locusts in Kenya is said to have reached a whopping 60km, which is further than the distance between Manchester and Liverpool, as the crow flies.
Desert locusts can travel up to 95 miles in a day and can eat their own body weight in plant material, meaning even a small swarm can consume as much food as 35,000 people in a day, according to the UN.
During each three-month breeding cycle, a single locust can breed 20 more, which is why the massive swarms are now threatening crops on either side of the Red Sea.
The UN has warned that an imminent second hatch of the insects could threaten the food security of 25 million people across the region.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has a locust watch bulletin.
Its latest one says the “situation remains extremely alarming in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia where widespread Desert Locust infestations and a new generation of breeding threatens food security and livelihoods in the region”.