Drones spraying chemicals have killed more than five million destructive weaver birds in the Northern Manyara Region of Tanzania.
The invasive quelea birds were culled in the ongoing pests-controlling exercise to clear them from rice growing areas after they descended onto paddy farms in the Magugu ward of Babati District.
The exercise is being undertaken by the Arusha-based, Tanzania Plant Health and Pesticides Authority (TPHPA) following the invasion of the passerine birds onto rice farms in Manyara Region where more than 1000 acres were under serious threats.
Rice happens to be the second most important crop in Tanzania after maize, with the Magugu farms being relied upon in supplying the staple in the Northern and Central parts of the country.
According to Gladman Mbukoi, the TPHPA Pests and Outbreaks Control expert, the destructive birds were capable of destroying over 50 tons of the food crops on farms per day and could clear entire farms within a very short period of time.
He said the exercise was difficult because huge swarms of the birds had blanketed the entire area, blitzing onto the paddy farms and feeding at alarming speeds.
Mbukoi explained further that the experts were forced to deploy aerial spraying of avicides that were dissolved in diesoline.
But environmentalists and animal lovers, have not been happy with the development and at the moment they are preparing statements.
It took more than four days to spray the birds with the works taking place mostly during the night when the weavers were less active and the bees asleep.
Local farmers, such as Mariam Gadiel a rice grower in Magugu admitted that the birds’ invasion had already gone out of control because even the hundreds of watch persons that the farmers had been hiring to drive them away could not keep up with the large swarms of queleas.
The Babati District Agriculture Officer, Kanas Sulu said the birds were negatively impacting the farming sector in Manyara prompting local authorities to seek help from the TPHPA in Arusha.
“Farmers have been experiencing 100 percent loss of harvests,” explained Sulu.
The Acting Manager of Tanzania Plant Health and Pesticides Authority in the Northern Zone Juma Mwinyimkuu said the birds’ invasions had been so apparent during the start of the dry season, especially in the months of September and October, 2023.
“But we are well prepared to combat such outbreaks with modern technology such as large drones, environment friendly chemicals and manpower,” said Mwinyimkuu.
On his part the TPHPA Acting Supervisory Manager in-charge of pests and outbreak control, Godlove Kirimbo said in undertaking such exercises, they normally cooperate with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP).
Quelea birds have been known for causing serious damage to crops in Africa when they migrate.
The weaver birds mostly endemic to the Northern Tanzania regions of Arusha, Manyara, Dodoma and Singida, usually destroy small grains like rice and sorghum.
Queleas move in swarms because they also happen to be most populous bird on earth with nearly 2.0 billion of them flying in the wild.
They are widely distributed in Tanzania and across Africa where they roost in large flocks estimated at 30 million birds.