Mautam (Illustration Friday – “Swarm”)

Rat Flood!

Mautam means ‘bamboo death’ in Mizo, the language of the Mizoram and Manipur regions of India in which it occurs. Every 48 years the bamboo forests surrounding the towns there flower, fruit and die. The rats who live there, and whose population is normally constrained by lack of resources, eat the fruit and and breed  (and breed, and breed, and breed) and their babies and their baby’s babies keep eating and breeding until there’s no fruit left – at which point starvation drives the rats in a great swarm to devastate the rice crops of the subsistence farmers in northern India. The people rely on the rice as the rats relied on the fruit, so famine hits hard. And it happens every 48 years, exactly, so everyone knows it’s coming and nobody can do anything about it. Scary.

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