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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 October, 2004, 19:12 GMT 20:12 UK
Locusts invade Mauritania capital
By Pascale Harter
BBC correspondent in Nouakchott

Locusts in Morocco
Locusts have wiped out harvests in part of Mauritania
A giant swarm of locusts has invaded the capital of Mauritania, Nouakchott, in north-western Africa.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned that the locust plague is still in its early stages and is set to worsen in the coming weeks.

Locusts have already ravaged much of Mauritania's crops and pasture land.

The air crackles with the flutter of their wings and trees rustle with their incessant munching. "We are fed up with these locusts", said one Mauritanian.

"We haven't got much greenery and they eat it all."

Upturned buckets

Swarms of locusts have descended on the Mauritanian capital three times in recent months, filling the sky, shredding leaves and bombarding inhabitants.

On the streets of Nouakchott children swing sticks like baseball bats, striking out the locusts.

Others, forced to go outside have taken to wearing upturned buckets on their heads to protect themselves from the clawed insects which like to settle in hair and on shoulders.

For the city dwellers, the locusts are a nuisance, but for 80% of Mauritanians, who make their living from farming or livestock, the current plague is an act of God.

In the south, many Mauritanians have seen their entire harvest wiped out in a number of hours.

And this is just the beginning.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation told the BBC a new generation of locusts is maturing and taking to the skies, bringing the risk of famine ever closer.

Mauritania 'on brink of famine'
21 Sep 04  |  Africa
Africa declares 'war' on locusts
05 Oct 04  |  Africa
Locusts ravage northern Nigeria
19 Aug 04  |  Africa
In the eye of the swarm
31 Mar 04  |  Science/Nature
Why locusts swarm
27 Mar 01  |  Science/Nature


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