Throughout Asia, the bamboo plant is revered as a potent symbol of longevity and good fortune.
But in northeastern India's Mizoram state, there's one bamboo species, Melocanna baccifera
, that causes dread. The plant flowers every 48 to 50 years, and its blooming brings tens of millions of hungry rats. After they devour the bamboo fruit, the rats start consuming crops, destroying entire fields—and local livelihoods—in a day or two.
The phenomenon, which occurred in Mizoram from late 2006 to 2008, is known in the local language as mautam
or "bamboo death." Here, three adult rats venture out at night to feast on maize.
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Photograph by Carsten Peter