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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Control of the African striped ground squirrel, Xerus erythropus, in Kenya


The African striped ground squirrel, Xerus erythropus (E. Geoffroy), has been found to constitute a serious pest to maize seed at the planting stage, causing mean losses of 9.7% and accounting for 57.3% of total damage found. A feature of ground squirrel damage is its unpredictable nature. Methods of reducing looses of planted maize seed to X. erythropus at the subsistence farmer level in southern Kenya were investigated. Constraints affecting a control programme by farmers were identified as follows: low standards of living and education, limited financial resources, strong individualistic attitude of farmers and small field size in relation to the home range size of squirrels. Removal trapping and poison baiting were selected for trial as meeting requirements of ease and simplicity, and involving materials available to farmers at the time. Field trials of bromadiolone and difenacoum anticoagulant rodenticides and removal trapping over periods of 1 month and 3 months prior to the expected onset of the rains failed to affect damage levels significantly on individual field units. Underbaiting and a high reinfestation rate were considered to be the primary causes of failure, and the habit of scatterhoarding exhibited by X. erythropus further complicates the poison baiting trials. The unpredictable nature of ground squirrel attack discourages farmers from expending valuable resources on control. Alternative strategies for farmers are discussed.

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