Wind­fall from bam­boo rats

The Borneo Post - Good English - - News -

XIAO Ling, 38, a farmer in Hongx­ing com­mu­nity, a vil­lage in Cheng­ma­gang, Hubei prov­ince, brought in 117 mat­ing pairs of bam­boo rats to start his breed­ing op­er­a­tion.

The rats are ex­pected to pro­duce ba­bies early next year, bring­ing their num­bers up to 600 and earn­ing about 60,000 yuan (about RM37,000) in prof­its by the mid­dle of next year.

Xiao has just at­tended a train­ing course in Nan­ning, Guangxi Zhuang au­tonomous re­gion.

“It is an emerg­ing in­dus­try with only a few peo­ple han­dling the busi­ness,” Xiao said.

The meat of the bam­boo rat can be used as food or medicine, and its fur can be used in cloth­ing. Cur­rently, rais­ing bam­boo rats has low risk and high eco­nomic value, he said.

“Bam­boo rats are well-known in some re­gions of South China, but in Hubei few peo­ple know about them, not to men­tion rais­ing them to make money.”

Xiao had left his home and worked in cities for more than a decade. To take care of sick fam­ily mem­bers, he re­turned home in 2011 and started a pig farm, also rais­ing a few cat­tle, sheep and chick­ens.

How­ever, pork prices were low, and it was hard to stay in busi­ness.

The turn­ing point came in 2015, when char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion Heifer In­ter­na­tional con­ducted its poverty re­lief pro­gramme in Macheng.

An­other ex­am­ple of get­ting a wind­fall from bam­boo rats is Shi Bei­dan.

She has 2,000 bam­boo rats that she plans to sell, and is fat­ten­ing them up with bam­boo to be eaten or turned into fur coats

The rats can grow up to 50 cen­time­tres in length and four kg in weight, and its meat costs four times more than chicken or pork and twice that of beef.

Among some com­mu­ni­ties, the meat is also viewed as a cure for bald­ness. It is es­pe­cially favoured as a win­ter dish.

The rais­ing of bam­boo rats is sweep­ing across the re­gion, with cash-strapped farm­ers turn­ing to breed­ing the rats as a new source of in­come. And it is be­com­ing big busi­ness.

Congjiang county al­ready has 18 bam­boo rat farms, and it is plan­ning to ex­pand that num­ber to 20 in 2013.

Bam­boo rats are a species of ro­dent that are found in the east­ern half of Asia.

A pair of well-kept breed bam­boo rats can sell for be­tween 600 and 900 Chi­nese yuan.

And they re­pro­duce rapidly with three to four lit­ters of two to five off­spring a year.

The Chi­nese bam­boo rat is soli­tary, ex­cept dur­ing the breed­ing sea­son. It breeds all year round, with a spring peak; lit­ters of two to four young (eight max­i­mum) are born naked, and are weaned at three months.

Ter­ri­tory is marked by four to seven soil mounds mark­ing plugged en­trances (20 to 40 cm high and 50 to 80 cm across). Burrows are 20 to 30 cm deep and up to 45 me­tres long.

Es­cape tun­nels are al­ways at the ready, loosely plugged with soil. The nest cham­ber is 20 to 25 cm across and is lined with bam­boo leaves. Mostly, it feeds on bam­boo shoots and roots, usu­ally on the sur­face, and moves on af­ter about a year as the food sup­ply be­comes de­pleted.

The Chi­nese bam­boo rat has a very wide range, is com­mon in some lo­cal­i­ties, is con­sid­ered a plan­ta­tion pest in parts of China, and is pre­sumed to have a large to­tal pop­u­la­tion. The main threat it faces is be­ing hunted by man for food. The In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture has listed it as be­ing of “least con­cern”.

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