Locust infestation in Mauritania

Seventeen teams from the National Locust Centre in Mauritania are currently undertaking survey and control operations against  breeding locusts in the west of the country where a serious infestation developed earlier this month. The new hatchlings are  gathering together to form small but dense hopper groups that are good targets for the control teams. More than 2,100 ha have  been treated since the control operations started on 11 September. “The current situation appears to be under control,” said  Keith Cressman. “FAO is monitoring the situation extremely closely and will continue to keep countries, the donor community  and other stakeholders informed of any significant developments as they arise.”

2004 outbreak worse
The infestation is smaller than the outbreak in 2003 that led to a regional plague in 2004-05. No significant rain has fallen  this month and vegetation is starting to dry out. All countries within the region are much better prepared than in 2003 and  have sufficient resources in place to bring the current situation under control. Although there is no immediate threat, other  countries in the region are on standby and ready to help Mauritania if needed. Morocco has mobilized survey teams and two  aircraft in the extreme south just in case locust adults arrive from Mauritania. So far, ecological conditions remain dry in  southern Morocco and no significant locust infestations have been detected.

Rains only risk
If unusually heavy and widespread rains occur in the next six weeks, there is a risk that small swarms will form in early  December in the infested area. They could then move north into northern Mauritania and southern Morocco and breed during the  winter. This could eventually lead to further migration and breeding during the spring as far north as the Atlas Mountains in  Morocco and Algeria. However, the probability of this to occur is slim and FAO and its partners will keep a close watch on  the developments. FAO has taken several precautionary steps in case the locust situation deteriorates. FAO is organising an  experts meeting in Mauritania next week  to assess the situation on the ground and to develop short and mid-term action  plans. FAO is in regular contact with the donor community if additional funds are required for control operations. 

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