Rodent pest management: principles and practices

Tags: India, Rajasthan desert, Prakash, Litter size, poison baits, baits, Rajasthan, Indian gerbil, Aluminium phosphide, Tatera indica indica Hardwicke, Indian desert, non-target species, Zinc phosphide, Prakash & Rana, rodent species, Tatera indica Hardwicke, Vertebrate Pest Control, Tatera indica, pest species, Ishwar, desert rodents, rodents, Hystrix indica, breeds, phosphine gas, rodent population, control operation, rodenticides, poison bait
PRINTED MAY 1976 CAZRI Monograph No. 4 Published by the Director, Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur and printed at the Jodhpur University Pre~s, Jodhpur
.'FOREWORD Rodents are unwelcome associates of mankind. They are serious pests of food, fodder and plantation crops and are carriers of a number of diseases. Unlike swarms of devastating locusts, rodents have not attracted public attention to the extent which is desired. Fortunately, however, the Central Arid Zone Research Institute has been involved in this problem since its inception and has assumed a leading role in rodent research in India. The scientists at this Institute have always based their ideology of controlling rodents on ecological principles and have tackled the problem as a management practice rather than as an 'eradication' ,..>r control operation. In pursuance of this thinking, they have stuqied the habits, behaviour, habitat selection and population and breeding cycles; side by side with investigations OI( poison baiting, bait preferences and related aspects and thus have been able to evolve and standardise effective procedures of rodent pest management under various ecological situations. The Institute is also deeply involved in extending the results of these researches to the rural areas for the benefit of the masses.,' It has also arranged several training courses to educate plant protection personnel from all over the country in recent advances in the field. Now that the National Programme for Rodent Pest Management has been launched, there is need for training a large number of people at all levels and to involve the community as a whole in the effort. Dr. Ishwar Prakash has prepared this monograph and it is hoped that it will not only be of value to plant protection agencies but also to the trainers, trainees and farmers who may be involved in the programme.
Central Arid Zone Researc'h Institute, Jodhpur. May 1, 1976
H.S. MANN Director
PREFACE Rodents have always been with us, ever SlUce primitive man became an agriculturist and are the most destructive of the vertebrate p~ts, probably only next. to man. Rodents inflict incalculable losses to standing crops, to stored' foodgrains and other commodities and to crops in the threshing yards, The farmers and, in fact, the people in general in this country have been tolerating these losses for rather too long. It is, therefore, in the fitness of things that the Indian Council of Agricultural Research has recently formulated the National Plan for Rodent Pest Management which should provide us the necessary impetus to fight a "war" against rodents systematically. Rodent control is a tricky job as the operator has to tackle a variety of rodents living together in the rural as well as the urban environment. All species of rodents do not have similar habits and they occupy different micro-habitats apparently to minimise interspecific cOJP?etition. It is, therefore, necessary to evolve a strategy which sh0uld effectively control all the resident spec.ies of a particular area. This is a rather difficult preposition and to fulfii 'his requirement, a great deal of basic information pertaining to the behaviour, food and breeding ha bits, habitat selection, range of movements etc. of the species involved should be available with the control planner. Clearly, we need to know a good deal more than what we do now in order to achieve a reasonahle degree of success. In this monograph, an attempt has been made to briefly present the current status of our knowledge with regard to the habits of the rodents of economic importance and to discuss the principles and practices of rodent pest management under various situations. The precautions needed to be observed, and the antidotes to be used in case of accidents, have also been discussed in detail. It is hoped that this monograph will be usefu1~ to rodent control operators at all levels in the country.
Cen tral Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur. May 1, 1976
ISHW AR PRAKASH Animal Ecologist
, ~e.
12 ;3
INTRODUCTION Since Vedic times, the Indian people realised the role played b'y the rodents as agricultural pests and as carriers of diseases. But inspite of this knowledge nothing substantial was done till recently to control this menace in our country. It is well known that in the tropical regions the turnover rate of rodents is much faster than in other biomes. The rodents are, therefore, able to maintain here a fairly high level of density in every habitat. Their superiority in adapting to almost all habitat conditions have made them man's enemy number one. Man has also inadvertently, or carelessly, been providing adequate shelter and nourishment to these creatures in crop fields, residential premises and in _g'odowns, thereby helping them in their SurVl."~ 1 and multiplication. Our religious and social taboos have also as~isted in the maintenance of rodent numbers at a high level. As a result, various lodent species have become serious pests at almost allltages of food production. They irHlict losses to the standing crops and to foodgrains in the threshing yards, god owns and residential premises. The total loss to the nation due to rodent activity must be of great magnitude and it ,s obvious that we can ill afford to continue incurring this loss. Several field studies have clearly shown that the cost benefit ratio in rodent contr~l operations ranges from 1:75 to 1:100. It is gratifying that a National Plan for Rodent Pest Management has recently been launched. The programme has been formulated to be carried out in four stages, viz., : preparation of the community, training of personnel, the actual control operation and prophylactic strategy. In this monograph an attempt has been made to provide information on all these aspects of rodent pest management. It is expected to serve the Apex level trainers, the district and village level organisers, and the student and farmer squads with guidelines and operational instructions for rodent pest management both in rural and urban habitats.
Rodents damage standing crops, both kharif and rabi, almost at every stage of their vegetative growth. In the paddy fields in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and Madras, 7.1 to 2l.5 per cent and 5.2 to 65.3 per cent of plant tillers were destroyed by rodents. This damage reduced the yield of paddy by upto 59.5 per cent and yield of straw by upto 45.7 per cent (Jotwani and Beri, 1968 ).
Damage to the groundnut crop recorded in Andhra Pradesh was 6 to 9 per cent at seeding stage, from 18.2 to 25.8 per cent at growth stage and from 4.1 to 7.6, per cent at maturity (jotwani and Beri, 1968). Rodent damag~ t'o wheat and barley crops at Kanpur d',lr.\ng rabi season was found to be 11 per cent in both seeding and growth stages (jotwanl and Beri, 1968).
The sugarcane field&,)n U.P. suffer an average loss of Rs. 66.55
per hectare due to rodept.s; total damage exceeds Rs. 7.8 crores (Gupta
et al., 1968). In Punjab, Bindra and Sagar (1968) found that loss in
yield of gur (molases, brown sugar) due to rodent damage averages
about 200 kg/ha and in the lodged sugarcane crop at Rupar rat
damage reached 575 kg/ha.
Rodents also attack coconut trees. More than 11 per cent of coconut palms were destroyed by rats in Andhra Pradesh (Krishnamurthy, 1967); the loss of nuts and the number of attacked trees was maximum (17.1 per cent) during the rainy and winter seasons. Kidavu Koya (1955) reported that the coconut yield in.Laccadive islands was reduced by 50 per cent due' to rodent damage.
In Rajasthan in 1970, Gerbillus gleadowi was a major pest of bajra crop and the intensity of destruction to sown seeds was so high that the crop in four districts had to be re-sown 3 or 4 times. In rabi crop, wheat and sarson (Brassica-campestris) are likewise destroyed by rats to a great extent.
At harvest, the bajra (Pennisetum typhoides) cobs from the field are heaped in the backyards of huts in villages of the desert region. The
, gerbils follow the cobs, dig tunnels under them, and feed upon the baJra grains leaving the cob 'near the burrow openings. In one such village, some 40 gerbils were observed in a 15 m X 40 m area - a very high density of gerbil population. Orchards and vegetable gardens are not exempted from rodent attack. Rodents eat or spoIl the fruits or gnaw at vegetable stems. Squirrels are a major pest of grapes, guava, blackberry, etc. Tatera indica also damages the vegetables. In Himachal Pradesh, serious damage to apple plantations by rodents was recently reported. The porcupine, Hystrix indica damages particularly the tuberous crops, chiefly sweet-potato, potato, turnip, carrots, antichoke etc.
Rodent damage to Tree species, particularly to saplings, is of two types: a) debarking, and b) completely slicing the stem. The former type of damage has been observed on Albz;:;;:;ia lebbek!. Prosopis cineraria, and Acacia tortilis. This activity is restricted to about. half a metre above the ground surface but may also extend to lateral branches. Usually the cortical cells of the stem are deba:rked with a detrimental effect on tree growth but at times even the xylem vessels are injured causing the eventual death of the tree. Debarking activity has been observed in trees 3 to 4 years of age (Prakash, 1974).
Stems of Prosopis julijlora and A. tortilis are also known to have
been completely cut by . rodents resulting in the death of the trees, even
when the latter were a few metres tall. In the sand dune fixation area
of Udayramsar, 20 trees were damaged in about one month. This
cutting activity by rodents occurs under the soil surface. Similar
damage was observed at Gadra Road in an A. tortilisI plantation and
on P. julijlora in the Great Rann of Cutch.
GRASSES AND FODDER CROPS Whenever seeds of Cenchrus setigerus, C. ciliaris and L. sindicus are sown in grasslands to improve the fodder quality for better Animal Production, rodents dig them up and feed on them almost to the roots of the fodder. The intake of grass seeds by M. hurrianae is much greater than that' of the other desert rodents (Prakash et al., 1967). In the monsoon season, the rodents prefer to feed upon the unripe inflorescence
of grasses; unable to r,each them, they gnaw the base of the plant. Recently, field rodents devastated some 40 acres of L. sindicus and 27 acres of C. ciliaris, C. setigerus and L. sindicus in an experimental pasture at Bikaner. At Maulasar, one of the range management and soil conservation paddocks of the Central Arid Zone Research Institute, during rainy season 'in 1965, the desert gerbil population was estimated at 477 per hectare. They fed upon fodder species which are grown for livestock causing immense loss in productivity. The palatability indices based on unconsumed plants found lying near gerbil burrow openings were 4.0, C. ciliaris; 3.7, Aristida adscensionis; 3.0, E. ciliaris; 2.7, D. adscendens; and 2.6 each for Brachiaria ramosa and Tragus bifiorus (Prakash, 1969). Gerbils thus clearly prefer grasses which are also relished by sheep and other livestock. The annual forage feed requirement of gerbils at the above density lev~l 'is about 1,040 kgJha compared with an annual forage produqtion of this rangeland of only 1,210 kg/ha. A:i"this rate, gerbils leave little, if any forage, for the livesto'ck (Prakash, 1969): During winter rodents feed chiefly on grass seeds but in summer they eat the rhizomes of the same grasses, partly because the seeds are in short supply and partly for the high water content of the rhizomes. In the rainy season the rodep,ts feed upon leaves and flowers. This rotational feeding habit of rodents poses a real thr~A-t to natural pastures. SOIL CONSERVATION The desert gerbil by its burrowing habit threatens conservation work. Its burrows are extensive and have no fixed pattern (Prakash, 1962; Fitzwater & Prakash, 1969; Barnett ~ Prakash, 1975). The burrow openings are scattered everywhere and as many as 14,000 have been counted in a plot of 100, m X 100 m. By tunnelling, it excavates fixed soil forming small mounds (about 1 kg.) near each burrow open~ mg. At this rate, gerbils unearth about 17,000 kg. soil per hectare; the loose soil is blown away by strong winds increasing the areas of sandy wastes and barren land. In Shekhawati region, lHeriones hurrianae excavated 61,500 kgJday/km~ soil in cultivated field and 10,43,800 kgJ dayJkm2 in uncultivated field (Sharma & Joshi, 1975). This study furt~er highlights the severity of soil erosion caused by rodents. 4
/ MAJOR RODENT PEST SPECIES According to the information available on the damage inflicted by rodents on food and fodder crops in India, about 10 rodent species are of major importance. A brief ecological account of each is now presented: l. Striped squirrel, Fu~ambulus pennanti and F. patmarum The former species occurs in north and north-eastern India whereas the latter one inhabits southern region of the sub-continent. F. pennanti occurs usually in association with man but also in wild popu- . lations throughout the range of its distribution. In towns squirrels are especially abundant in gardens and orchards. Squirrels are diurnal and arboreal in habit. In the desert region F. pennanti breeds from March to September (Purohit et at., 1966) but most frequently during the M(frch-April and July-September periods. Banerji (1955, 1957) reported that it breeds throughout the year at Saharanpur. Litter size varies from I to 5 (Prakash, 1960; Purohit et at., 1966, Seth & Prasad, 1969). 2. Indian Crested Porcupine, Hystrix indica . It is found throughout India and mostly in rocky habitats and surrounding regions. It is nocturnal and lives in long tunnels which are dug in between broad crevices filled with soil. Nocturnal movements are wide ranging, and severe damage may be inflicted on crop fields, orchards and reforestation plantations. The porcupine breeds all the year round and the litter size varies from 1-3, average being l.45 (Prakash, 1971). 3. Indian Gerbil, T atera indica This gerbil is distributed throughout India. The. subspecies T. i. indica is spread from the Rajasthan desert to Bengal, Ne:pal terai, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra. T.i. cuvieri occurs in Nilgiris, Mysore, Madras and Bellary. T. i. hardwickei is found in Western Bombay, Coorg and pints of Mysore. The gerbil is very adaptable and is found in most Indian habitats. .A detailed study of its habitat selection has been made in the desert biome (Prakash et al., 1971; Prakash & Rana, 1970). It is nocturnal and inhabits burrows of comparatively simple 5
pattern. Its food consists, of grasses, parts of standing crops and insects, (Prakash, 1962). Intensive work has been done on the ecology and behaviour of this rodent in this laboratory. It breeds throughout the year (Prakash, 1962; Jain, 1970; Prakash et at., 1971) and the litter size varies from 1-9 (average 4.78). In South India, T. i. hardwickei shows a bimodal pattern of reproduction (Chandrahas, pers. comm.) and T. i. cuvieri is a seasonal breeder (from September to early March) with litter size varying from 1-10 (Prasad, 1954, 1961). Gestation period is 28-30 days (Prakash et at., 1971). The young are weaned after 30 days and attain maturity in about 16 weeks . . 4. Indian Desert Gerbil, Meriones hurrianae This gerbil inhabits the arid and semi-arid regions of the Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Gujarat States. In the Rajasthan desert it is the most common species. It inhabits a variety of habitats but prefers the hummocky terrain over sandy plains (Prakash et at., 1971; Prakash & Ran~, 1973). It is diurnal and digs extensive burrows (Fitzwater and Prakash, 1969). The population of the desert gerbil varies markedly from place to place and year to year; the average annual numbers vary from 24 to 510 (Prakash et at., 1971). Although Meriones occurs' largely, in grasslands, it is also found in the kharif crop fields. Its debarking activity is a menace to the re-forestation programme. No grassland improvement programme can be successful wi_thout gerbil control. Merion gerbil breeds all the year round (Prakash, 1964; Kaul and Ramaswamy, 1969) but the incidence of pregnancy increases during February-March and July-September. Litter size varies' from 1-9 (av. 4.4). The gestation period averages to 30 days. 5. House Rat, Rattus rattus About 16 sub-species have been recognised from the Indian subcontinent but prQhably R. r. rufescens is' the most important one from an economic point of view. It is essentially a house rat but populations are also found in fields particularly in coconut plantations where it causes severe damage. It is nocturnal but at high densities some rats may be active during the day. Populations of house rats are usually more dense in the villages than fn t.owns because of the greater availa- bility of harbourage and the poor sanitation. Krishnamurthy et at (1967) estimated rat density in U.P. villages at 9.8 per house or 1.29 per person. In Gujarat State, the commensal rat population was 3.9 6
per house and 1.07 per person (Chaturvedi, pers. iomm) The house rat breeds throughout the year; Utter varies from 1 to 10 (av. 5.41). 6. Soft-furred field-rat, Rattus meltada The sub-species R. m. pallidior occurs m northern and eastern India, from Rajasthan to Nepal and from the Punjab to Gujarat, whereas R. m. meltada inhabits Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and southern India. Thjs field rat usually occurs in irrigated fields but is also found in pastures (Prakash et al., 1971; Prakash et al., 1971; Prakash & Rana, 1972). It is nocturnal and lives in simple burrows. In the Rajasthan desert, it breeds only from March to September (Prakash, 1971) but in South India it litters throughout the year (Chandrahas, pers. comm.). Litter size varies from 2-10. 7. House Mouse, Mus musculus In India, three sub-species of this species are of economic importance. M. m. bactrianus is distributed in the north-east India, M. m. homouru~ -is"'spread from Kashmir. Kumaon, Madhya Pradesh to West Bengal, Assam, Sikkim and Nepal. In South it has been reported from Nilgiris and Eastern Ghats. M. m. tytleri is found in Punjab. Gujarat, Maharashtra. Himachal and parts of nor the-astern India. It inhabits two types of habitats, indoor and in the' crop fields. It is fairly com:non in sugarcane fields along with other species of Mus. It is nocturnal and fossorial in habit. Litter size is 4-8 (av. 5.4) (Mann, 1969). In certain parts of India, the number of field mice, Mus platythrix and Mus cervicolor is fairly dense and they damage standing crops. 8. Short-tailed "Mole Rat", Nesokia indica It occurs in the Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. It inhabits cultivated fields but may also occur in areas under natural vegetation near crop fields. In the irrigated Aelds, it prefers to burrow in the bunds. It is specially abundant in su,garcane fields. It is a nocturnal rodent and lives in burrows. The characteristic features of its burrow are the small "mole hills" of excavated soil. Little is known a bout this rodent. 9. Lesser Bandicoot Rat, .Bandicota bengalensis I t is found throughout India, except the Western Desert. It is nocturnal and fossoria!' It occupies two type of habitats, crop fields 7
and the godowns. In the fields, it moves, by distinct runways '4midst dense vegetation. It prefers wheat and rice crops. It hoards large amount of food in its burrows; upto 450 kg per hectare has been reported. It is also a serious pest of stored foodgrains in Uttar Pradesh, Bengal and parts of South India. Spillet (1968) estimated that in one godown in Calcutta, the foodgrain losses due to bandicoot rats annually exceeded 4000 kg. It breeds all the year round and a maximum of 15 young ones have been reported from a single litter. 10. Large Bandicoot Rat, Bandicota indica It occurs in whole of India, except the arid region. It lives near human habitation and is also found in cultivated tracts but is most common in the outskirts of houses, backyards and gardens. It is not as common as Rattus rattus. In addition to food crops and foodgrains, it damages kuchcha houses by its nocturnal tunnelling. Litter size is 10-12. Little is known about this rodent. A field key to common rodents is appended (Appendix I). SOME BASICS OF RODENT CONTROL For an effective and sustained control system, merely knowing the "pest" and the "poison" is not at all sufficient. Certain principles must be'strictly followed. One of the most important factors in any control operation is its cost-worthiness; which method will be the cheapest and most effective in a given area for a given species. The answer depends largely on an accurate estimate of losses, on the size of the rodent population and on the magnitude of reduction in their population after a contr~l operation., The assessment of the number of persons employed for rodent 'control in relation to economical return must also be considered. In outbreak of severe devastation of crops caused by rodents it might be justified to engage a large Labour force, for a short period on an assumption that later, when pests had been greatly reduced fewer men could be employed for maintenance work. In any massive control measure manpower to be used should be properly assessed. The other important principle is the knowledge about the biology of pest species, an essential for efficient control. Simple observations 8
of the daily activity and authentic knowledge of their feeding rhythm can explicitly enhance the control efficiency. The diurnal rodents usually observe peak feeding time early in the morning whereas the nocturnal ones have it soon after dusk. With this information we can time our baiting schedule. accordingly. Similarly the knowledge of breeding periodicity of a species will help to time the control operation during the year. We can greatly reduce the cost of labour, baiting material and poison if we know the range of movements of the rodents. Such examples can be multiplied and some of them are explained elsewhere in the manual. It is, important to recognise rodent control as an ecological operation since it is the regulation of populations and not the destruction of individuals. It is also important to time the control operation to achieve the most fruitful results. I shall explain this principle of rodent control by citing an example. Studies on the habits and behaviour of field rodents have helped in arriving at a decision about this important aspect of rodent control which has not been hitherto considered in our country. The breeding rate of most field rodents is at a minimum during the summer months and in the month of December. Studies on their population dynamics indicate that lowest numbers occur during May and June. Analysis of their food habits points out that acceptability of baits is maximum during summer months when there is paucity of natural food. These results led us to postulate that summer is the most appropria te season when large scale rodent con trol should be taken up effectively. Incidentally, the farmer is also comparatively free during the hot months to take up this work. If the job is done precisely, the need for follow up programme will arise only during the next summer; studies at the Institute havt< shown that the rate of reinfestation by rodents is slow. But it will always depend upon the area in which the rodent control operation has been taken up. If rodents are controlled on a district level, i.e. in a large area, the reinfestation will be slow but if it is carried out only in one hectare or so, immigration of rodents from surrounding areas will result in rapid reinfestation. 9
THE CONTROL OPERATION The rodent control operation should be planned to cover as large an area as possi ble. If the operation is carried out in a few hectares of crop fields or in a small group of houses, rodents from the infested surrounding region will re-infest the cleared area very quickly; in a large area, however, the problem of reinfestation will be delayed and the time until follow-up action is needed will also be increased. Having arrived at a decision about the control operation timing (incidentally, if there is an outbreak of rodent population or in case of a restricted necessity one sho!lld not wait for the proper time to conduct the operation), one should plan the operation carefully; an estimate should be prepared of the requirements, baits, additives, poison(s), bait containers, traps, the man power required and the supervisory staff. Atl the items should be acquired beforer injtiating the operation. Another very!"important factor, often over-looked, is to secure close co-operation of the p~ople of the area. The inhabitants should be fully informed by talks, films, posters about the need and advantages of the rodent control operations. This will result in benefits in two ways. People will co-operate fully and they will be aware of tht;. happenings; th~ chances of any accident with poisons will thus be reduced. Help should always be taken from V.L.W.'s and Panchayats of the regIOn. After a useful training, they should be made organisers of the control operation. If the control operation is in a village or a town, a map of the area will be of great use.. The workers should be divided in parties and each sl:lOuld -be designated a particular an~a and day to day work should be fully explained to them. Even for field operation, the work should be assigned to every party and explained fully with the aid of a map. If the workers know their work of the day before they start, it will result in much more efficient control work. In residential houses in rural or urban surroundings one man (or two if required) should enter the house and survey it for obvious signs of rodents, find the places frequently vIsited by them, and then pl~ce sufficient bait in suitable containers at these points. On the 10
\ second day, a quick look will give an indication of bait consumed and it should be replenished in q;uantities which should be sufficient for 3-4 days. Then there is no need to revisit the house for further baiting until the sixth day. The inhabitants should be asked to deposit dead rats or mice at one place in the village. Arrangements should be made to bury them deep so that dogs and other wild animals cannot dig them out. All necessary precautions should be taken, as explained later, particularly in livestock sheds. In the fields as well, distribution of work among the parties increases efficiency and minimises the amount of confusion when a large number of workers are· assembled together. The number of persons required per day should be judged well in advance. The workers should stand in a line at an interval of one metre or so at one side of the field and should proceed towards the opposite side putting baits in the freshly opened burrows. If, however, baits are placed in containers! at a regular interval of 10 or 15 m fewer people may be employed as the baiting continues. Whether the rodent control is undertaken in the field, residential buildings, livestock pens, godowns or ware-houses and by any of the methods described, a residual population oft rodents survive either by not taking lethal dosages of the poison, by refusing the poison-bait altogether, or as a result of the unavailability of poison-bait. This is the population about which we should be most c~ncerned as the reinfestation will depend on this and on immigration. If the control operation is precisely done, the residual population will be of low density; after a haphazard operation, however, many rodents may still be present. When the control operation is finally over, it igl essential that a follow-up programme continues. With the presf!nt information available about the Indian species of rodents, it is difficult to state the interval at which control operation should be repeated. But it would be worthwhile to keep a watch and to repeat it at least at six monthly intervals. It is imperative to emphasize, however, that the success of control operation will depend solely on improvement in sanitation condition and rat proofi·ng in houses, godowns and -warehouses. Clearance of rodent harbourages and improvements in storage facilities must be given equal importance with the control programme itself. 11
t is often
An important aspect in the control of rodents tha
overlooked is the fact that, in the field one encounters mi:l{ed Pbopuf -
tion of rodent species.
Therefore, control programmes haVe to
e0 a ·
Seldom IS a
broad spectrum to cover all known rodent species. ' ations on a
population of a single species found in fields. Control oper
ml'xd e populat'IOn 0 f severa1 speCI'es 0 ften e1"Imlllate t he dominant . atnd
'th restnc e
mobile rodents with poison bait but the smaller rodents WI Tl 1
rs e
le ess
become pre-
mobile species then reproduce unchecked and soop dominant. Poison-baiting, therefore, requires a thorough
kno w1e d ge
of the habits of all rodent species.
For a mixed
population of rodents,
is also .'
[or pOISOnIng
very important factor for effective control.
1 Id s lOU
should be selected to be acceptable to all rodent speCIes.
d un ess we
be pre-tested. Field rodents possess individual tastes an Јr' inellectlve.
take this characteristic into account, poison baits may be . d' f
rnHne or
The proportion of rodenticides should be carefully dete
Јr t"vely carne various rodent species. The mixing of baits can be ellec 1 · 1 A
out with
the help of a seed
thorough mixing
. IS
tIa 1
rough caI cu1atI·On 0 f ro denn"Cd I e reqU'Irement I'S sh own'In T;T ABLE I · C a Icu IatI·On 0 f' rod entl.cI'd e reqU.Irement for crop fie~ lds_. _- -
Approximate No. of rodents
Approximate No. of burrows baited Zinc phosphide required
'n X 30 =
0.12 g/burrow operll g
3.6 g/hectare
Out of 20 rodents 70% are killed
30% remain = 6 left
Requirements Zinc phosphide
360 g/lOO hectare
Aluminium phosphide Antidote
900 g/lOO hectare According to t~_ _ __
As far as possible,
rodent control operations should
be taken up d
be surveye
before the sowing of the crops. and pre-baiting (cereal flour or
The active burrows are cracked grains 97 parts
to an d
bi .e
of 1
6 g.
actIve hd
h fift ay,
burrow opening) done on the first and thIrd day. On t e
2 per cent zmc phosphide is added and the baits distributed. This I operation will take care of 70 to 80 per cent population of the field rodents. The residual popul~tfon cannot be tackled by zinc phosphide poisoning as most of the rodent species develop poison and bait shyness after a single exposure to this toxic chemical. The residual population should be controlled by the fumigation of burrows. On the sixth or seventh day all burrow openings are closed. On the eighth day, in those burrows reopened aluminium phosphide tablets are put, @ 1.5 g per active burrow opening. This will control the residual population of rodents (Appendix 2). This operation must be taken up at the beginning of Kharif and 'Rabi seasons.
RESIDENTIAL PREMISES _AND GODOWNS On the first day the volunteers will collect I kg food material from each household representing the bait requirement for field as well as households which cannot contribute it. They will visit individual houses 'ih village and predetermine the places where baits are to be placed. An assessment of total and daily requirement of bait, the poison (Table 2) and the manpower required should also be made. In order to prepare the bait material, the collected cereals will be crushed and 5 per cent master mix (0.5%) concentrate of anti-coagulant (Warfarin) will be mixed and kept ready for distribution. On the second day the bait will be distributed in suitable containers like broken pitcher, mud channel, coconut shells, bamboo etc. In each house, baits will be placed at 2-4 points with about 300 g bait per house and baiting should continue for three weeks (Appendix 3). The dead rats will be collected and buried. This operation must be repeated once each six months to keep village comparatively rodent free.
L TABLE 2. Calculation of rodenticide requirement for rural households.
An ticoagula n t poison req uired One village One CD Block Antidote
17 g/house 350 houses X 17 g = 5950 g=6 kg avo 110 villages x6 kg=660 kg According to the need
This method will bring down the house rat, Rattus rattus, population to a very low level but some house mouse, Mus,musculus will
surVIVe for which regular trapping should be carried out by the villagers. PLACEMENT OF BAITS Placement of baits involves several basic principles. It should be in a manner that largest numbers of the rodents if possible all, should have within their reach one or two baiting centres-. It does not, however, suggest that if in an area, there are 100 rats, hundred or one hundred fifty baiting stations should be placed. The number of baiting centres and the quantity of baits required at each should be adequately assessed by the operator based on the knowledge of the habits and behaviour of the test species. In a grain store, or in houses in villages, baits should be placed at places most frequented by the rodents. This is especially important when two or more rodent species occur together. In the villages, the range of movements of Mus musculus and Rattus rattus do not usually overlap. Under su'ch circumstance bait placement should be done in a manner that both the species can feed upon it. Usually, in' control operations in rural as well as urban areas, the majority of R. raltus are eliminated leaving behind populations of M. musculus almost untouched. These reproduce quickly in an environment of surplus food and without competition from R. rattus. Mus musculus usually live under boxes, almirahs, in fu~l wood stacks and often under clothes. If baiting is carried out keeping Mus musculus movement in mind, there is no reason why both the species cannot be knocked out in a single operation. What usually happens is that due to apparently visible signs left by R. rattus bait placement is carried out only in its movement ranges. Similar situations are found in field as well. In the Punjab, Rattus meltada _pallidior, T atera indica and Bandicota live together. In western Rajasthan Meriones hurrianae, Gerbillus gleadowi and Tatera indica live side by side. In southern parts of Rajasthan, Rattus meltada is found along with Tatera indica and Golunda ellioti (Table 3 & 4 ). Although they could be trapped in a single trap line in a single habitat, yet they occupy slightly different microhabitats. T atera indica is found in open sandy patches, Rattus meltada in crop fields and in vegetated parts of the land, whereas Golunda ellioti moves on set paths under grass and bush cover. By giving these 14
examples, we want to stress on the point that even -in a single habitat, the rodent baiting should be planned in accordance with the habits of the various rodent species. Certain rodents respond to slight habitat changes; a newly cleared patch of land will arouse their interest. Thus if a 6 cm x 6 em earth is scraped and baits placed there, this may attract many rodents. As has been discussed previously, the study of rodent movements may not only increase the efficiency in uptake of baits but may also reduce the cost of baiting.
TABLE 3. Predominant rodent species in croplands m various States in India.
Predominant rodent species
Alldhra Pradesh Bandicota bengalensis- T atera indica- Rattus meltada-
Mus spp.
Bamboo rats?
Bandicota bengalensis- T atera indica
Guj arat
Meriones hurrianae - T atera indica-Rattus meltada
Rattus meltada-Nesokia indica- T atera indica
Himacha I Pradesh Rattus rattus-Rattus ratoides
Jammu & ~ashmir ? ?
T atera indica-Bandicota bengalensis--Rattus meltada-
Mus platythrix
Madhya Pradesh Tatera indica-Bandicota bengalensis-Rattus meltada
Bandicota bengalensis-Mus spp.
Meghalaya } JJ_andiw'a bmgalensis - Rattus ,. bullock;
Bandicota bengalensis-Rattus meltada-Mus spp.
T atera indica - Rattus meltada- Nesokia indica - Mus s pp.
Rajasthan Sikkim
Meriones hurrianae- T atera indica- Rattus meltada ??
Tamil Nadu Tripura
Tatera indica-Rattus meltada-Mus spp. ??
Uttar Pradesh
Rattus meltada - T atera indica- Bandicota bengalensis- Mus spp.
West Bengal
Bandicota bengalensis - Mus spp.
TABLE 4. Predominant rodent pests associated with the major agricultural~crops in India.
Important crops
Predominant rodent pests
Pearl Millet, Sorghum, Maize Rice Ragi Groundnut Cotton Oilseeds Pulses
Meriones hurrianae, T atera indica Bandicota bengalensis, Rattus meltada R. meltada, T. indica, M. spp. * Mus musculus, Mus booduga, Rattus meltada Meriones hurrianae, Rattus meltada T atera indica, R. meltada, M. hurrianae Mus spp., R. meltada, T. indica
B. RAB! CROPS Wheat, Barley, 'Tatera indica, Rattus meltada, Bandicota bengalensis, Gram & Mustard Nesokia indica, Mus booduga \
Tuber crops Vegetables
Hystrix indica, M. musculus T atera indica, R. meltada, Mus spp., Funambulus pennanti, F. palmarum. Hystrix, indica
Funambulus pennanti, F. palmarum, T. indica, Nesokia indica, Hystrix indica
Rattus rattus, Tatera indica
*Mus musculus, Mus booduga, Mus platythrix and Mus cervicolor
Several types of indigenous bait containers have been used in India and elsewhere 'for 'keeping the baits. The basic idea in selecting bait containers should be that the bait should be freely accessible to target species, and they should reduce hazards to other animals and man. Simple improvisations can protect the baits from other animals and from rain water and other weatherings. We are, therefore, not recommending any particular types of bait boxes. Indigenously procured items like mud channels, hollow bamboo pieces, broken pitchers, coconut shells can be well utilised for the purpose.
In the fields, however, baiting should be done nearer the active burrow openings, near the ' rodent runways, on the bunds and in mud-thorn clad fencings. In h'eavily infested fields baits can be scattered in small heaps or even be broadcasted. This should depend on, the judgement of the local operator in a way to make them accessible to the majority od rodent population, side by side minimising hazards for non-target species. PRECAUTIONS Rodenticides are dangerous for men, livestock and the natural fauna. It is of importance that scrupulous care is taken in storing them, handling them and while laying poison-baits in residential surroundings as well as in the field. The poisons should be ,stored in a steel cupboard and its key should be kept in safe custody. After use, the rodenticides should not be left carelessly. While taking out rodenticides from cans, it should be ensured that its fine dust is not filtered and inhaled. After weighing, the pan of the balance should be thoroughly cleaned. If a can is emptied, it should be smashed and buried deep in the ground. Mixing of poisons should be done in well 'Ventilated rooms so !hat question of gas being released by some poisons ,(Zinc phosphide, Aluminium phosphide) does not accumulate in lethal con'centration for the operator and others. It is probably best to mix the poison with the bait in mixing drums if large quantities of the poison-baits are to be prepared. While mixing the baits and handling poisons, one should always wear gloves and mask. While distributing poison-baits 10 the houses and fields, ensure that all the inhabitants are-aware of the dangers and the parents should especially take care that children do not touch the baits. The baits should also be protected from cats, dogs and livestock; particularly the goat which is very exploratory in behaviour. Attempts should be done to conceal the poison bai,ts as far as possible in cheaply made bait boxes, in earthen channels. Bait not used at the end of a control campaign should be collected up and incinerated or deeply buried. In the fields, the poison baits can be protected from birds, livestock and other non-target species by putting them 6-8 em inside the burrows. Moreover, the rodents find the poisoned bait before they 17
reach their natural food supply or the baits placed near Јhe burrow openings. It is of great importance that no worker distributing poison baits should have cuts on his fingers or hands. The poison can enter the body quickly through these bruises. After handling the poison and the baits, the hands should be scrupulously washed with soap or detergent. The nails should be cleaned with a brush. Fumigation should not be, as a rule, tried in residential buildings. In the fields if cyanogas powder is used, one should face towards the wind direction, not opposite it. This will keep away the leaking gas from the operator. If aluminium phosphide is used, keep it away from fire or lit cigarettes as it is highly inflammable. Do not handle the tablets; use an applicator or a long tube to insert them in the burrow openings. After a control operation, dead rodents lying on the surface should be picked and disp'osed off adequately in an incinerator or by burying them deep into the soil. This will safeguard the predatory birds and animals from secondary poisoning. In residential buildings, the fleas, flying off from the dead rodents should be tackled by either dusting or spraying an insecticide. RODENTICIDES, FIRST AID AND ANTID9TES ZINC PHOSPHIDE AND ALUMINIUM PHOSPHIDE Zinc phosphide is the most widely used rodenticide in India, and probably throughout the world. It is a greyish black powder, slightly soluble in alkalis and oils but is insoluble iIi. alcohol and water. The toxic action of the compound is due to the evolution of phosphine gas and not from the zinc molecule. It emits an odour of phosphine. The compound readily breaks down in the presence of dilute acids but is fairly stable in air, water and food materials which are not acidic in character. When it is ingested?y animals the acidic medium of the stomach activates the release of phosphine gas causing injury to kidneys and liver and paralysing the heart. The heart failure is probably caused due to pulmonary hyperemia and oedema under ordinarily dry 18
conditions. Zinc phosphide baits' can retain effective toxicity for 20-25 days but in moist environme:nt, the poison baits deteriorate quickly. Exposure of the baits to heavy rains will reduce the toxicity considerably. It is fairly hazardous to human beings and to domestic animals, particularly poultry. It should not be freely distributed to inexperienced villagers and should be, as far as possible, handled by trained personnel. While mixing the poison with the bait, phosphine, being emitted from the toxicant, can be inhaled. The phosphine inhaled into the lungs has also been found to be very dangerous. It is, therefore, essential that poison should be handled in well ventilated room with utmost care. The active ingredient in Aluminium phosphide, available in tablets and used for fumigation of burrows in field is also the phosphine gas. In case of poisoning through inhalation or accidental consumption of poison-baits, swift action should be taken. Mustard emetic should be immediately administered to induce vomiting. When the vomiting stops, give 6 gm potassium permanganate dissolved in glass of warm water. This oxidises the phosphide to phosphate. After ten minutes half a teaspoonful of copper sulphate dissolved in about 250 cc of water should be administered. This will produce insoluble copper sulphide. After that give a purgative-one tablespoonful of epsom salt in water. Call the doctor immediately. ANTI-COAGULANT RODENTICIDES These are the multi-dose poisons. Some of them are derived from coumarinic acid which occurs in many plants and others are indandiones. These differ from the inorganic poisons in that a given quantity of. the chemical is much more potent if taken over a few days than as an individual dose. The action of anticoagulants affects two of the body mechanisms, (a) causes haemorrhage in the body and (b) prevents blood clotting' by inhibiting of pro-thrombin formation. Thus the animals suffer a total internal haemorrhage and show increasing weakness due to loss of blood. In case of accident;:ll consumption of this poison, call the physician immediately. Vitamin K administration and blood transfusion are recommended. 19
HABITAT ALTERATION AND .RODENT PROOFING In the fields, the number of rodents can be effectively reduced by habitat alteration. Keith et al (1959) and Cumings (1962) found that upto 90 per cent field rodents were removed due to weed control in the fields. The rodents major food was dependent upon forbs and for them to survive. Rodent exclusion can be 'easily achieved in residential buildings without incurring lot of expenditure. All the cracks in,the walls should be properly sealed. The drains opemng outside should be fitted with a wire mesh so that rodents cannot enter through them. ] 5 cm broad metal strip should be fixed at the bottom of wooden doors so that rodents are unable to gnaw through them. Besides, food material should be kept in rodent proof containers and grains should be stored in metal or cement bins. Details of the methods of x:odent proofing have been further explained by Fitzwater and Prakash (1973) and Barnett and Prakash (1975). PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING AND EDUCATION The control of rodents can only be successfully done with the close cooperation and understanding of the public. The organisers of this work should initially spend ,much time in organising lectures (in local language) supplemented by films on the advantages of rodentfree living and on actual rodent control work. Such education through good films leave a better impression on the public than only lectures or talks. Public can also be educated by short pamphlets which should be profusely illustrated, showing damages, and spread of diseases through rodents. Television and radio are also very suitable media for this work and fullest cooperation from the organisations should be sought by the control organisers. In every state and in every block, one village should be made "rat-free" for demonstration purposes. By a multichannel propaganda against the rodents, the people will become aware of the problem and will be. able to overcome their religious and sentimental taboos and the public will extend full cooperation after a good understanding of the... advantages of the rodent control (Appendix 4). Success cannot be expected unless there is a good administrative set up for undertaking thi.s work in a block or in a state as a whole. I t is of great importance to have a proper and permanent staff for Rodent Control at every level. 21
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS It is a pleasure to record my gratitude to Dr. H.S. Mann, 'Director, Central Arid Zone Research Institute for his unfailing advice and encouragement throughout the course of rodent studies and during the preparation of this monograph. Dr. Philip E. Cowan critically read the manuscript and made several useful suggestions, Shri B.D. Rana and Shri A.P. Jain assisted me in our studies and in writing this work; and Shri T.S. Vishwanathan typed the manuscript several times. Dr. Pulak Ghosh, my colleague and friend made several useful suggestions for the preparation of this work. My grateful thanks are due to them. 22
Banerji, A. 1955. The family life of five-striped squirrel, Funambulus penn anti Wroyghton. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc,! 53 : 261-265.
Banerji, A. 1957. Further observations on the family life of the five-striped squirrel,
Funambuius pennanti Wroughton. Ibid, 54 : 336-343.
Barnett, S.A., Cowan, P.E., Radford, G.G. and Prakash, I. 1975. Peripheral anosmia
and the discrimination of poisoned food by Rattus raltus L. Behavioural BioI.,
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Barnett, S.A., and Prakash, I. 1975. Rodents of economic importance in India Arnold-
Heinemann, New Delhi, 1-175.
Bindra,O.S. and Sagar, P. 1968. Study on the losses to wheat, groundnut and sugarcane
crops by the field rats in Punjab. Proc. Inti. Symp. "Bionomics and Control of
Rodents". Kanpur, 28-31.~
Chitty, D. 1954. The Control of Rats and Mice. Vols. I & 2. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Cummings, M. W. 1962. Control of pocket gophers. Proc. Vertebrate pest control Conf.
Fitzwater, W.D. and Prakash, I. 1969. Burrows, behaviour and home range of the Indian
desert gerbil, Meriones hurrianae Jerdon. lIJammalia, 33 : 598-60. Fitzwater, W.D. and Prakash, I. 1973. Handbook of Vertebrate Pest Control. ICAR,
New Delhi: 1-92.
Gupta, K.M., Singh, R.A. and Misra, S.C. 1968. Economic loss due to rat attack on
sugarcane in Uttar Pradesh. Proc. IntI. Symp. "Bionomics and Control of Rodents"
Jain, A.P. 1970. body weights, sex ratio, age structure and some aspects of reproduction
in the Indian gerbil, Tatera indica indica Hardwicke in the Rajasthan desert,
India. Mammalia, 34 : 415-432.
Jotwani, M.G. and Beri, Y.P. 1968. Economic losses due to rats. Proc. IntI. Symp.
"Bionomics and Control of Rodents" Kanpur,9-16.
Kaul, D.K. and Ramaswamy, L.S. 1969. Reproduction in the Indian desert gerbil,
Meriones hurrianae J erdon. Acta Zool. Stockh., 50 : 233-248.
Keith, J.O., Hansen. R.M. and Ward, A.L. 1959. Effect of 2, 4-D on abundance and foods of pocket gophers. J. Wzldt. Mgmt. 23 : 137-145.
Kidavu Koya, P.LK. 1955. Rat hunt in Laccadives. Bull. Ind. Central Coconut Committee.
9 : 104.
Krishnamurthy, K., Uniya1, V., Singh, J. and Pingale, S.V. 1967. Studies on rodents
and their control. PI. I. Studies on rat population and losses of foodgrains.
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Mann, G.S. 1969. Studies on the biology and control of field mice and analysis of rodent
population around Ludhiana. M.Sc. Thesis, PAU, Ludhiana (Unpublished).
Pingale, S.V., Krishnamurthy. K. and Ramasivan, T. 1967. Rats. Foodgrain Techno-
logists' Research Association of India, Hapur.
Prakash, Ishwar. 1960. Breeding of mammals in Rajasthan desert, India. ] lI-famm., 42 :
Prakash, Ishwar. 1962. Ecology of gerbils of the Rajasthan desert, India. Mammalia, 26 :
Prakash, Ishwar. 1964. Eco-toxicology and control of Indian desert gerbii" Meriones hurrianae (je~don) pt. 4. Toxicity, relative acceptability and efficIency of
certain poisons. Indian For., 90 ; 519-528.
Prakash, Ishwar. 1964. Eco-tox'icology and control of Indian Desert gerbil, MerioTles
hurrianae (Jerdon) pt. 2. breeding season, litter size and post-natal develop. ment. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 61 : 142-149.
Prakash, Ishwar. 1969.. Ibid. pt. 5. Food preference in the field during monsoon_, Ibid,
65; 581-589. Prakash, Ishwar. 1971. Breeding season and litter size of Indian desert rodents. Zeit f.
angewandte Zoo!., 58 ; 442-454.
Prakash,Ishwar. 1973. Rodent control in the desert. Indian Fmg., 23 : 41-43 & 47.
Prakash, Ishwar. 1974. Rodent damages in the field and their control. In Trainirig
Manual; Post Harvest Prevention of waste and loss of Foodgrains. Asian
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Prakash,Ishwar. 1974. The ecology of vertebrates of the Indian desert. Chapter XIII
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Prakash, Ishwar and Rana, B.D. 1970. A study of field population of rodents in the Indian desert. Ziet. f. angewandte Zool. 37 : 129-136.
Prakash, Ishwar and Rana, B.D. 1972. Ibid II. Rocky and piedmont zones. Ibid, 59:
Prakash, Ishwar and Rana, B.D. 1973. Ib'id III. Sand dunes in 100 mm rainfall ZOne.
Ibid, 60 : 31-41.
Prakash, Ishwar, Jain, A.P. and Rana, B.D. 1975. Ibid IV. Rucleral habitat. Ibid,
62 : 339·348.
, Prakash, Ishwar, Rana, B.D.~ and Jain, A.P. 1975. Bait shyness in three species of Rattus. Ibid. 62: 89-97. Prasad, M.R.N. 1954. Natural History of the south Indian gerbil, Ta/era indica, ClIvi.r; (Waterhouse). J- Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 52 : 181~187_ Prasad, M.R.N. 196r. Reproduction in the female Indian gerbil, Tatera indica cuvieri (Waterhouse). Acta Zool. Stockh., 42 : 245-256. Purohit, K.G., Kametkar, L.R. and' Prakash, I. 1966. Reproduction biology and postnatal development of th'e Indian palm squirrel. Mammalia, 30: 538-546. Seth, P. and Prasad, M.R.N. 1969. Reproduction cycle of the female five-striped Indian palm squirrel, Funambulus pennanti Wroughton. J. Reprad. Fert., 20: 211-222. Sharma, V.N. and Joshi, M.C. 1975. Soil excavated by desert gerbil, Meriones hurrianae (Jerdon) in the Shekbawati region of Rajasthan desert. Ann. Arid Zone, 14: 268-273. Southern, H.N. 1954. The control of rats and mice. Vol. 3. Clarendon Press, Oxford. SpiUet,J.J. 1968. The ecology of the lesser bandicoot rat in Calcutta. . Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay. 25
AjJ}endix 1 FIELD KEY FOR THE IDENTIFICATION OF PREDOMINANT RODENTS OF ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE 1 (2) Quills present, almost on the entire body- Hystrix indica 2 (1) Quills absent 3 (4) Tail bushy throughout, heavily furred-Funambulus pennanti 4 (3) Tail not bushy throughout 5 (8) A hairy tassel present on the tip of the tail 6 (5) Dorsal colour buffish, large-Tatera indica 7 (5) Dorsal colour sandy, mixed with grey medium-Meriones hurrianae 8 (5) A hairy tassel on the tip of the tail absent 9 (12) Tail longer than head and body 10 (11) Head and body more than 100 mm-Rattus rattus 11 (10) Head and Body less than 100 mm-Mus musculus 12 (9) Tail usually shorter than or equal to head and body 13 (14) Head and body usually more than 200 mm-Bandicota indica 14 (13) Head and body usually less than 200 mm 15 (14) Tail about 70% of head and body, mammae 10-Nesokia indica 16 (14) Tail about 75% of length of head and body-mammae 12-18- Bandicota bengalensis 17 (14) Tail about 90% of head and body-mammae 8-Rattus meltada r8 (13 & 14) Head and body less than 100 mm 19 (18) Size large, occipitonasallength 23 mm and above-Mus platythrix 20 (11) Size medium, occipitonasallength 20-23 mm-Mus cervicolor 21 (IS) Size small, occipitonasal length less than 20 mm-Mus booduga 26
Day 0 Day Day 3 Day 5 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 & 10
Appendix 2
Survey of rodent burrow openings Estimation of man power and other requirements Formation of Operational Squads Distribution of work Start pre-baiting Pre-baiting Mix poison, Poison-baiting Close burrow openings Fumigation of burrows Harbourage removal and sanitation
Appendix 3
Day 0
Study of map of operational area
Survey houses, back yards, etc.
Estimation of man power and other requirements
Formation of Operational Squads
Distribution and allotment of work
Mix poison in cracked foodgrains
Distribution of bait stations, 2 to 3 per house
Day 2
Assess consumption, replenish for 5-6 days
Day 7,10,13,16,20 Collect and dispose dead rodents
Replenish bait station for 5-6 days
Skin la{,g:eJr rodents for by-product utilisation
Day 21-22
Harbourage removal, sanitation and rodent proofing,
storing of foodgrains in rodent proof structures

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