Experts in China are exploring their options when it comes to helping Pakistan battle one of the worst locust infestations the country has seen in nearly two decades.
According to several reports, one potential method includes sending approximately 100,000 ducks from the Chinese province of Zhejiang to the South Asian country to combat the bugs.
Lu Lizhi, a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, called the ducks “biological weapons,” and told Bloomberg that they may be more effective than pesticides.
“One duck is able to eat more than 200 locusts a day,” he told the outlet, adding that they would be running a trial with the ducks in the western Xinjiang province later this year before confirming if they will send the ducks.
This method was used before when China shipped 30,000 ducks from its Zhejiang province to Xinjiang in 2000 to battle a locust infestation in the region, the BBC reports.
While this method seemed to work then, another researcher is more skeptical about the ducks’ capabilities to help with Pakistan’s locust swarms, telling The Guardian that he thinks the duck deployment is unlikely to happen as the birds are not well suited for Pakistan’s conditions.
“Ducks rely on water, but in Pakistan’s desert areas, the temperature is very high,” Zhang Long, a professor from China Agricultural University, told the outlet.
Zhang — who is part of a team of Chinese experts that were sent to Pakistan to evaluate the situation and develop a solution — suggested the use of chemical or biological pesticides instead.
Earlier this year, Pakistan’s government declared a national emergency in response to the locust infestation.
“We are facing the worst locust infestation in more than two decades and have decided to declare a national emergency to deal with the threat,” Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said in January, according to DW.
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According to the outlet, the insects arrived in Pakistan from Iran in June and since then have been ravaging the country’s crops, causing a food insecurity scare.
Countries in East Africa are also experiencing heavy infestations, with the United Nations issuing an international call for help in January to fight swarms, according to the BBC.
The agency says that the current pestilence is a consequence of the 2018 and 2019 cyclone season that caused heavy rains in the Arabian Peninsula. They claim that the rains fostered three generations of “unprecedented breeding” in the food-devouring bugs.