Bangladesh turns to Medway expert for rat reprieve
Date of release: Monday, June 1, 2009
A recent explosion in the Bangladesh rat population has led to the expertise of a University of Greenwich scientist being called upon. Dr Steve Belmain, from the university’s Natural Resources Institute (NRI) at Medway, has been working on a range of rodent research projects in the area since 2002.
When the latest ‘rat floods’ began, bringing disease and economic chaos to the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the United Nations Development Programme asked Dr Belmain to lead a team of 14 experts to collect information on the destructive phenomenon and provide recommendations on what should be done. The team discovered whole villages on the brink of famine.
Rat floods occur every fifty years when bamboo throughout the region flowers. The increase in food supply allows the rat population to dramatically increase its breeding. When all of this seed has been consumed, the rats swarm out of the forests and into the fields and houses of farmers, decimating crops as they eat anything they can find.
Steve says of the work:
“Because infestations like this only happen every 50 years, we need to gather as much research as possible. The main research finding is that people are in serious risk of food shortages over the next two to three years, with possible disease outbreak if emergency relief is not rapidly provided.”
Dr Belmain and his team recently received funding from a Bangladeshi non-profit organisation to continue carrying out ecological studies on the rat floods. With plagues of the vermin also blighting areas in Australia, China, Africa and south-west America, the work of Dr Belmain’s team at NRI will be in great demand for a long time.
For more information about the work of the NRI visit www.nri.org or call 01634 880 088.
For interview opportunities and further information, please contact:
Ben Ashmore, Press Officer
tel: 020 8331 9420
About Steve Belmain:
Dr Belmain is an applied ecologist with ten years experience working with scientists and communities in African and Asian countries, providing PhD supervision, on-the-job training and capacity building. Research interests include small mammal ecology, particularly ecologically-based rodent management. Dr Belmain has had more than 50 publications in scientific journals.
About the NRI:
NRI is a specialist institute of the University of Greenwich providing research, training, consultancy and advisory services to underpin sustainable development, primarily in developing countries.
The Institute is located on the Medway Campus and currently has around 80 scientific, academic and technical staff, working in a wide range of disciplines in the natural and social sciences. More information is available from www.nri.org