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Burma's crops plundered by rats

Rat infestations continue to cause large crop losses in north-western Burma. The maudam phenomenon has been blamed for reducing one-fifth of the population of Chin state to the brink of starvation.

The natural phenomenon, caused by the flowering of the bamboo plant, occurs roughly every 50 years. The nutritious fruit and seeds produced attract the rats, which multiply rapidly into a plague. When all the bamboo fruits have been eaten, the rats ransack local crops, often wiping out whole fields and leaving villages with nothing. The last maudam was in the 1950s when 15,000 died from the resulting famine. In present-day Burma, around 100,000 people are threatened with starvation and thus far the ruling military junta has provided no assistance to affected communities.

Date published: November 2008

 

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