Giant worms destroying ancient rice terraces

A farmer displays the hated olang, the giant earthworm
that is destroying the rice terraces of the Ifugao people

The Banaue rice terraces – a staggeringly beautiful landscape that took thousands of years to build in the Cordillera mountains of the Philippines – are being devastated by giant earthworms.

The worms can reach 18 inches in length and half an inch in diameter and are believed to have moved to the terraces as their original forest habitat was destroyed. All specimens found so far are female – they reproduce rapidly without needing a male.

Their burrowing weakens the terraces, leading to collapse. The farmers are unable to afford repairs and families that have farmed terraces for generations say they will be unable to continue.

There is some hope – scientists from the Philippines Rice Research Institute have established that the lowland striped shrew-rat eats olangs, and does not touch rice — so might be used to control the worms if funding could be found to develop this approach. (NB: Caution should be observed… don’t want to add to the problem!)