Rats are on a rampage in Takeo province, but time may be running out for the rice-eating rodents.
About 5,000 hectares of dry-season rice have been damaged by rats and insect pests, according to Governor Kep Chuktema. He said Sunday that the damage by rats was particularly severe in 500 hectares of the mountainous Kirivong district.
Villagers who tried to poison the rats were chagrined to discover the rats were unfazed by the poison, dogs and pigs were proving more susceptible.
The governor said he plans to organize a rat-hunting day for the district soon. Details are still sketchy, but most likely farmers or others who want to hunt rats will be paid in rice—provided they prove the rat is indeed dead.
Most likely, victorious rat hunters will be required to turn in severed rat tails to get paid, as has been done in Svay Rieng province. Officials say spears and slingshots have proven effective in previous hunts. Rat meat, which is used to make fish food, sells for about 600 riel per kg.
Kep Chuktema says he is seeking support from the government and several non-governmental organizations for the rat hunt.
Rats are an annual threat to Cambodia’s crops, causing an estimated $1 million in damage annually. In dry years the damage tends to be worse, as floods drive the rats to higher ground during the rainy season.