China denies it will send 'duck army' to tackle Pakistan locust swarms
The Ningbo Evening News had said the legion of lotus-eating waterfowl would be sent from the eastern province of Zhejiang following the earlier dispatch of a team of Chinese experts to Pakistan to advise on a response to the infestation, which is being called the worst in 20 years.
The story was viewed on China's Twitter-like Weibo 520 million times on Thursday and garnered thousands of comments, Reuters reported.
But local media is now reporting it wasn't clear if such a plan existed and a provincial agricultural technology institute cited in the story said it was looking into the matter.
The website of Hong Kong's pro-China Phoenix TV said officials with the Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Agricultural Technology were hoping to discuss the matter with researcher Lu Lizhi, who was quoted extensively in the story.
A professor from China Agriculture University Zhang Long also told reporters in Pakistan that ducks, which had previously been used in China to fight locust infestations, would not be suitable to the different environment in the South Asian country, Reuters reported.
"Ducks rely on water, but in Pakistan's desert areas, the temperature is very high," Zhang, who was a member of the team of Chinese experts, said, recommending the use of pesticides instead.
Calls to the provincial government press office by AP seeking confirmation of the report rang unanswered Thursday and a number provided for the publicity department at the agricultural institute was busy.
Pakistan was invaded last year by the locust swarm, which laid waste to the country's cotton crops and is now menacing wheat harvests.