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Mixed feelings about MBPJ’s RM3 per rat bounty

The Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), unable to handle the issue of urban rat proliferation and its associated problems, has decided to rope in the public in its war against the urban rodents. The PJ council is offering a bounty of RM3 per rat, live or dead.

According to news reports, the PJ council is prepared to pay on-the-spot for any number of rats caught by the public. Apparently anyone can participate in this rat catching campaign including foreigners, according to The Malay Mail Online.

Rats belong to the order Rodentia and they make up almost half of all the mammal species on the planet. Rodents are a very successful group of mammals that have been associated with mankind for hundreds of years.

Rodents that have established themselves firmly in human habitats are not only a pest but they are feared for their ability to spread highly dangerous and infectious zoonotic diseases (diseases that can spread from animals to man) such as Hanta virus fever, leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, salmonellosis, etc. Rats are also known to inflict great amount of structural and other economic damages that runs into hundreds of millions of ringgit in losses.

According to a report by the British Pest Control Association, rats have been said to be responsible for more than 25 percent of all electrical fires in buildings in the UK.

As such the decision taken by the PJ council to eliminate the rodent pest is understandable. However, I have mixed feelings with regard to this campaign by the PJ council. Enticing the public with monetary rewards for the rodent killing campaign does not reflect well on the council. This job of rodent elimination or pest management should be ideally handled by a professional pest control expert/contractor.

Why is the council not engaging a professional pest control contractor to do the job? Are our private pest control companies not competent enough to handle the rodent infestation problem? Ad hoc rodent control measures will not produce the desired results. The local councils should look into a long term sustainable rodent control strategies and management programs.

It should engage professional pest control experts for guidance and advice on the matter. A comprehensive workable rodent abatement program should be in place. What we need is a proactive rat control programme that is operative throughout the year.

I am not against the PJ council’s effort in wanting to reduce the rodent population, but I am concerned with the kind of cruelty the rodents will be subjected during this campaign. Although urban rats have been classified as pests, we need to be mindful that they are also part of nature and sentient beings.We should respect the sanctity of all lifeforms and look into humane ways of handling or eliminating them.

The public, especially those who are keen on the cash offer (foreign workers), will be going on a rampage to kill these rats in whatever manner they deem fit. We should not encourage and endorse this unprofessional methods of eliminating the rodents in our environment.

Outsourcing the rodent elimination work to a layman in the public is unacceptable and reflects the council’s inhumane and unethical stance on the issue of animal welfare and cruelty.

In the past when such campaigns with cash rewards were carried out by councils I have witnessed and heard many horrible incidents of rats being subjected to extreme form of cruelty. Rats were simply bashed up and subjected to extreme form of cruelty beyond our imagination. There were cases of rats been mutilated beyond recognition, killed in hot water or simply being pierced with sharp objects, etc.

This cash reward rat catching campaign by PJ council is akin to an open invitation to the public to inflict pain and suffering to these creatures. There is no way to monitor how these these poor creatures being killed or caught. It is simply a campaign to brutally kill these creatures on sight without any concern for the kind of cruelty these rodents will be subjected to by the public.

Animal Welfare Act can be invoked

It must be pointed out that the newly-amended Animal Welfare Act can be invoked if the councils are found to have taken an unprofessional and inhumane approach in handling the rodent problem. This rat-catching campaign without proper guidelines will indirectly encourage the public to subject these creatures to unnecessary suffering and pain before they are killed.

Rats may be considered as pests but that does not gives us the right to subject them to these heinous cruelty. The PJ council’s RM3 per rat will very likely attract those in need of cash to employ cruel and barbaric methods to kill these poor creatures. The council should immediately reconsider or review its decision to get the public involved in this rat elimination campaign and instead engage a professional pest control organisation.

Apart from the issue of cruelty this campaign will give rise to unnecessary and illegal use of poison and toxic chemicals by amateurs who are keen on the cash offer. The use of these unregulated toxic chemical bait will be contaminating our environment and probably endanger other animal species.

Individuals who are involved in the catching rats without proper safety operating guidelines and advice may be inadvertently exposing themselves to dangerous rat-borne pathogens.

It must be pointed out that according to scientific studies, rodents are said to harbour more than 70 different types of zoonotic pathogens that be can be transmitted to humans (‘Endo Parasites of Malaysian Rodents: Human and Veterinary Public Health Implications’ by Paramasvaran Sithambaram and ‘Overview of Nematodes infecting rats in Malaysia’ by Siti Nursheena Mohmad Zain).

Without proper health and safety advisory guidelines for those getting into this business of catching or killing rodents, the PJ council may be inadvertently exposing the public to unnecessary public health and safety hazard.

The PJ council should not overlook the inherent health and safety hazards associated with a campaigns of this nature where the public is enticed with monetary rewards. Instead the PJ council should seek professional or expert help and assistance for a long-term rodent eradication and control programme.

Total disregard of nature

Hasty ad hoc rodent eradication campaigns which encourage the public to go on a brutal killing rampage of these poor living creatures amounts to a total disregard of nature and portrays the human species as monsters.

Ad hoc rat control methods like this PJ council RM3 rat catching campaign is not going to be much help. The rat problem will continue to persist in a matter of weeks for these rats breed effortlessly in a short time.

The city and local councils should look into the root causes of the rat proliferation problem and focus on it. What the local councils need to do is to attend to the degrading environmental problems and come down hard on those whose dirty habits of fouling-up the environment, making it ideal for these rodents to breed.

Our local councils should look at how our neighbour Singapore’s councils are keeping their city relatively free from the rodents and crows . I have not heard or read about Singapore councils asking the public to catch rats for them. It all boils down to no-nonsense enforcement by the local councils. The councils should come down hard on all those who break the local council by laws on environment cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene.

Local councils should seriously look into the building infrastructure, drainage and sanitation of all our wet markets and hawker centres. Rodents tend to proliferate in these areas due to the degraded infrastructure and the easy availability of food before moving inwards to housing areas.

The other place where rodents tends to breed and move into human environments are those areas where pasar malam (night markets) are frequently held. From personal observation, these night markets in housing areas are a perfect environment for rodents to take refuge and continue to breed due to the availability of food waste generated by the pasar malam stalls.

According to literature on the Internet on rodent control , apparently a female rat can theoretically produce three to six litters of six to10 offsprings per year. This will ultimately lead to an adult female rat to be responsible for about 320 million descendents within three years.

With this kind of biological breeding record of these rats, can ad hoc rat elimination measures like the PJ rat-killing campaign produce results? It’s time local councils stop passing the buck to the public but instead it should consult rodent control experts and take a professional approach in tackling the rodent problem in the country.

The two most common urban rodent species in the country (Rattus rattus diardii and Rattus norvigecus) will continue to be a persistent pest in our midst as long as we continue to ignore the environmental degradation that favours the rodents’ survival and proliferation.

With a large population of foreign workers living in squalid conditions without proper sanitation and waste disposal system in our midst, it poses a daunting tasks for our local councils to keep the rodents under a manageable level.

In view of the climatic changes that we are experiencing over the last couple of years, scientists are predicting that the environmental conditions will be highly conducive for small mammals such as rodents to multiply. A fresh comprehensive scientific study should be conducted on the biological and social aspects of these rodents so that new data can be elicited to draw a workable rodent control and management programme.

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