China trains foxes to hunt rats

July 29th, 2010 - 5:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 29 (IANS) China is no longer relying on poison to kill rats - it is training a group of foxes to hunt down the disease-infested rodents.
Authorities in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region are training specially-bred silver foxes to combat rats, which have destroyed the prairies. The fox training base was set up in Altai region and has already trained 284 foxes and released them into the wild.

The rats have eaten the grassroots and damaged the prairies with underground digging, officials of the regional locust and rat control department said.

“Foxes are excellent natural predators of the rodent. One fox can catch about 20 rats per day. There has been a decline in the rat population in several counties where the measure has been adopted,” Ni Yifei, deputy head of the department, was quoted as saying by China Daily.

With dozens of foxes released, the “control-of-rats” experiment has reduced the number of rats in the region by 70 percent and the number of burrows per hectare of land has dropped from 50 to 15, the animal husbandry department said.

The fox training base was established with 800,000 yuan (US$118,000) of government funding. The base bought 20 silver foxes from a local farm.

Ni said the silver fox was chosen to be the rat fighter for its distinctive ability to run, hunt and live under the harsh living conditions on the prairie.

“It is a ‘green’ way to tackle the rat problem,” said Lin Jun, head of the department.

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