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Mastomys natalensis is the most widespread rodent pest in Africa and is found in all sub-Saharan African countries. When conditions are right in East Africa this rodent can undergo rapid population expansion causing massive rodent population outbreaks leading to 100% crop loss and regional famines. Besides major impacts to agriculture in Africa, this species is the reservoir of Lassa Fever, a haemorrhagic fever disease in West Africa that has very similar symptoms and transmission dynamics as the Ebola Fever (reservoired by fruit bats) currently outbreaking in West Africa.

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Although rodenticides are the most common form of rodent management, inappropriate use of poisons has adverse affects on wildlife and many of the poisons used to kill rodents can lead to accidental poisoning, particularly with children.  New design traps can be just as effective and StopRats is assessing the efficacy and sustainabilty of community based trapping in rural farming areas.

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Rodents are not only a problem to crops in the field but can cause serious damage and contamination to harvested grains stored on farm, such as this rice contaminated with rodent faeces.

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In many parts of the world, rodent population outbreaks can lead to 100% crop loss and regional famine. In Africa, this phenomenon is known to occur across the Sahel and along the eastern side of the continent.  Outbreaks are particularly frequent in Tanzania.

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Professor Steven Belmain training colleagues in Madagascar on plague surveillance and rodent management.