By Tim Binnall
To the dismay of many observers who wondered how such a strange plan would unfold, officials in China say that, contrary to reports online, they are not sending a 100,000-strong army of locust-eating ducks to Pakistan to thwart the ravenous insects that have devastated the country. The fantastically weird concept first came to light on Thursday morning when an agricultural expert told a Chinese media outlet that officials were considering the elaborate idea.
"Ducks like to stay in a group, so they're easier to manage than chickens," Lu Lizhi reportedly mused, while also noting that the birds can eat a whopping 200 locusts per day. The agricultural expert went on to argue the waterfowl would constitute a veritable 'biological weapon' and a safer alternative to pesticides. As one can imagine, the prospect of China sending 100,000 ducks to Pakistan captured the imagination of people online and the story quickly went viral on social media in the country before being picked up by English-speaking outlets trumpeting the odd proposal.
Alas, it would seem that the 'duck army' may be nothing more than a pipe dream as a different agricultural expert swiftly stepped forward to squash the idea. Zhang Long, who is in Pakistan as part of a team of Chinese researchers working to develop a response to the country's locust problem, dismissed the idea to a local media outlet, citing one particularly problematic aspect of the plan. "Ducks rely on water," he noted, "but in Pakistan's desert areas, the temperature is very high" and, as such, the birds would have a difficult time surviving in these arid conditions.
Although the concept inspired all manner of jokes and memes online, the idea of using ducks to battle locusts is not altogether new. In fact, the tactic has been used on numerous occasions throughout history and was put into action on a large scale back in 2000 when agricultural officials dispatched 30,000 of the birds to a province that was being overrun by the insects. Be that as it may, it appears that the 'duck army' is, for now, not on the drawing board when it comes to this current epidemic that has been impacting Pakistan and numerous African nations in recent weeks.