Plague of Locusts Threatens Island of Madagascar in Indian Ocean

Image: Plague of Locusts Threatens Island of Madagascar in Indian Ocean

Friday, 29 Mar 2013 10:09 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Billions of locusts are clouding the skies over the island nation of Madagascar in the worst plague since the 1950s, experts say.

"It's like you are in a movie, it's incredible," Alexandre Huynh of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization told CNN. "You don't see anything except locusts. You turn around, there are locusts everywhere."

More than half of Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa, is buzzing with the grasshopper-like insects, which are known to decimate agriculture, stripping fields and feeding on crops. When they get hungry, a one-ton hoard of locusts can eat the same amount of food in one day as 2,500 humans.

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The infestation could prove deadly in a nation like Madagascar where more than two-thirds of the population already lives in poverty, according to CNN.

"The last [locust plague] was in the 1950s and it had a duration of 17 years so if nothing is done it can last for five to 10 years, depending on the conditions," FAO locust control expert Annie Monard told the BBC.

The U.N. is currently seeking $22 million to carry out a large-scale spraying operation to get the plague of locusts under control, Huynh told CNN.

"There is no more use in preventing anything," Huynh said, stressing the pressing need to fight the infestation. "It is really an emergency situation."

The Locust Control Center in Madagascar had treated more than 70,000 acres of farmland since last October, but a cyclone in February made the situation worse, the FAO said, by creating optimal conditions for locusts to breed.

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Earlier this month, a swarm of locusts reportedly descended on Israel after blanketing Egypt.

Related stories:

Israel on High Alert as Locusts Swarm Egypt Ahead of Passover

Australia Battles Giant Locust Plague

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