KENYA — Kenyan government has launched a drive to kill millions of red billed quelea birds that have invaded farms, threatening to destroy food sources in the country.
The drive will not be without consequences for raptors and other wild species, experts have warned.
The Red-billed Quelea, which has an estimated adult breeding population of 1.5 billion, is said to be the most prevalent species of bird in the entire planet. It is a little passerine bird that belongs to the Ploceidae weaver family and is indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa.
According to experts, the scarcity of seeds that the queleas feed on, has diminished mainly due to the droughts, leaving the birds to prey on the native grass, putting 2,000 acres of rice under threat. About 300 acres of rice fields have been destroyed by the birds.
Statistics paint a horrifying picture about what damage a quelea can cause to the drain. “A single quelea can eat up to 10 grams of grain a day,” according to a report published by Guardian quoting FAO.
This in other words, farmers in western Kenya could lose close to 60 tonnes of grain. The FAO estimated crop losses attributed to the birds amounted to $50m annually in 2021.
According to Guardian, “A report prepared by Robert A Cheke from the University of Greenwich and which was used as a working document in a 2017 FAO workshop in Sudan recommended alternatives to the use of the chemical, including a forecast and control planning method.”
In a new development, the government has set a target of killing six million birds in the drive.
Quelea has faced frequent attacks in many African countries. Last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) provided $5million to the Tanzanian government to help it soon after more than 20 million quelea attacked crops in the country.