An army of rats are invading the City of Cape Town and defying all attempts to keep them under control. Cape Town’s rat problem is so bad that the long-tailed rodents have been observed tunneling through paved bitumen surfaces and damaging City property.
And residents of informal settlements have complained of aggressive rats that nibble their feet at night.
Masters of negotiating the urban environment, rats can jump up to three feet high and are adept at climbing wires and pipes.
They can grow to more than a foot long, breed prolifically and have become an increasingly familiar – and unwelcome – presence in informal settlements and the Cape Town Central Business District (CBD) in recent years.
Attempts to control the vermin require an annual budget approaching R500,000, which is spent on maintaining over 8,000 baiting stations per quarter.
In Doornbach — an informal settlement near Cape Town’s Milnerton suburb — residents complain that they have to kick the rodents off their beds at night.
Angry community leader Nopaseka Daniso said when she was in bed at night she could hear the rats rattling on the zinc roof of her shack and scurrying around inside her shack.
She said sometimes the rats even tried to nibble at her feet and she had to kick them off her bed.
“We are very frustrated with the rats. They are messing with important stuff, eating our underwear kept in drawers.”
But the problem is also a biting one for wealthier suburbs.
CBD ward councillor Belinda Walker said residents in the suburbs of Vredehoek, Oranjezicht and Gardens had complained to her about the beady-eyed beasts.
“It’s not a problem that we are going to get rid of completely but nonetheless we need to keep an eye on it,” said Walker.
In the past, what to do about the rats has been a problem all on its own. In 2008, the Chinese Year of the Rat, plans by a local NGO to capture rats in cages and then beat them to death led to howls of protest from the SPCA.
SPCA senior wildlife inspector Kira Joshua said the organisation was opposed to any suffering before death as it was in contravention of the law.
Dr Ivan Bromfield, City of Cape Town executive director for health services, said rats were a problem throughout the Metro area.
He said rats were carriers of human diseases such as the Plague, Leptospirosis, Rat Bite Fever and Lassa Fever.
Their faeces and urine could contaminate food and food sources and water supplies with other harmful organisms such as E.coli and Salmonella, said Bromfield.
Rodents were destructive “gnawers”, he said, and inflicted physical damage to buildings, equipment and electrical installations.
In each of the city’s eight sub-districts, there was a team led by environmental health assistants who did block baiting throughout the year, he said.
Bromfield said there was an annual budget of R428,691 for purchasing rodent poisons.
He said a total of 33,000 rodent baits were laid down in a business plan year and 8,250 rodent baiting stations were serviced per quarter.
The City’s health directorate had partnered with the Central City Improvement District (CCID) to work together on a rodent control programme to reduce the rat population.
CCID chief operations officer Tasso Evangelinos said CCID in collaboration with the City would “soon” fund an awareness programme which would educate businesses to implement proper waste management solutions to deter the growth of the rat population. — West Cape News