Bangladesh's king rat-catcher kills 83,000

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A Bangladeshi farmer who killed more than 83,000 rats and launched a nationwide campaign to kill millions more has been awarded a prize by the government for his efforts in protecting crops and reducing the need for food imports.

Mokhairul Islam, 40, won a television for killing 83,450 rats over nine months in Gazipur, near the capital, Dhaka. He collected their tails for proof.

"I am so happy to get this honour," he said upon receiving the set amid cheers at a ceremony attended by 500 farmers and officials. "I had no idea the government gives prizes for this." Officials say that the impoverished nation imports three million tonnes of food a year. The agriculture ministry estimates that rodents destroy 1.5 million to two million tonnes of food a year.

"We can cut the import of food by at least half if we can succeed in this year's campaign," said Wais Kabir, the executive chairman of the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council.

He asked everyone, especially farmers, to take up the killing mission. The government has said it will train farmers and students for this year's campaign. "Killing rats is not that easy, it needs training," Mr Kabir said.

Mr Islam has already signed up for the new war on rats. "I will continue to kill them," he vowed.

He said that he had mainly used poison to kill the rats at his poultry farm and that the cull had paid off because the rodents were taking less. "Previously, I needed 33 sacks of poultry feed per week. Now I need less than 30."

Fakhrul Haque Akanda, a farmer from northern Bangladesh who won the second prize in the government rat-killing competition, killed 37,450 rats mostly with traps. "These bloody rats are my enemy. They destroy my gardens," he said.

"Please pray for me so that I can continue my mission and teach and motivate others to join me."