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After locusts, one can expect a few more creepy surprises in Oman

If the sight of swarms of locusts hovering over different areas in Muscat brought about the creeps for many urban dwellers in the capital, there just might be a few more creepy, crawly surprises in store for everyone.

A fortnight ago, Dr Zulfikar Ali, an Indian botanist and long-time resident in Oman, had predicted that the unusual greenery in the capital, following excessive rains this year, would adversely affect local flora and fauna. Dr Ali said it would create a cascading effect on the food chain and food wave of these areas as the greenery would not just affect existing flora but also attract new insects, birds, fish and animals to different parts of the sultanate. And the arrival of locusts, last week, sort of, confirmed this contention.

Dr Ali, a professor of biotechnology who heads the Muscat study centre of the Indira Gandhi National Open University’s (IGNOU) distance learning programme, told TheWeek that one should expect to see many more reptiles and birds in the environment following the arrival of swarms of locusts which came in to feast on the tender shoots that have mushroomed all over the hills and plains in Oman.

A greater number of lizards can be the next guests one can expect to see, Dr Ali said, identifying some of the expected species of calotes as phrynosoma lizard (desert horned lizard), a variety of monitor lizards, geckos, agamas, skinks, besides desert chameleons, all of which are known to thrive and survive in desert conditions and eat locusts.

As for birds, mynas are the most expected ones and large numbers of these birds have already arrived in Oman from neighbouring countries, he said, adding that another winged guest would be the nawras which, like mynas, enjoy feasting on locusts.

Stressing on more upheaval in the food chain and food wave in coming weeks, Dr Ali asserted that the swarms of locusts which vis-ited the sultanate were ideal food for foxes, wild cats and domestic cats besides being ‘delicacies’ for omnivorous birds like mynas, nawras and crows.

Dr Ali also said, “the swarms of locusts which have arrived to feast on the shoots of wild shrubs which have germinated would breed and increase in number significantly. The presence of wild and domesticated cats and other omnivorous/carnivorous birds are very necessary to cut down these numbers, but also a large number of desert lizards, which also eat locusts, would arrive in the enviroment to maintain the food chain.

“This is a menace for the environment and therefore the government agencies should take up serious initiatives to control and eliminate the locusts by spraying of pesticides in an organic manner.