The China Daily said on Tuesday that burrowing by great gerbils and other rodents has damaged 4.76 million hectares of grassland in the country's far west.

"It has been the most severe rodent disaster since 1993," Xiong Ling, an official with the region's headquarters for controlling locusts and rodents, said.

To combat the onslaught, the government is using poison and raising eagles to eat the gerbils, which are now reaching the peak of their reproductive cycle.

Bubonic plague

As many as 790 burrow holes have been found per hectare in some areas.

Great gerbils, found in many parts of Central Asia, can grow up to 40cm from head to tail.

In addition to being an agricultural pest, the gerbils are known to carry bubonic plague.