Paris fights against ro­dent in­fes­ta­tion

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Both Na­dine Mahe des Portes and the rat pan­icked when she in­ad­ver­tently stepped on it on her walk back from work through Paris. “I heard a ter­ri­ble squeak,” the prop­erty agent re­called with a shud­der. “I thought I’d stepped on a child’s toy or some­thing.” When Parisians are lit­er­ally trip­ping over rats on the side­walk, it is clear that the City of Light has a prob­lem. Pro­fes­sional ex­ter­mi­na­tors with decades on the job strug­gle to re­call in­fes­ta­tions as im­pres­sive - per­haps that should be re­pul­sive - as those now forc­ing the clo­sure of Paris parks, where squirmy clumps of rats brazenly feed in broad day­light, look­ing like they own the place.

On Fri­day, City Hall threw open one of the closed parks, the Tour Saint-Jac­ques square a block from the Seine, to show jour­nal­ists its lat­est anti-rat drive. The park in the heart of the city is only a short walk from the Pom­pi­dou art mu­seum. Two Ja­panese tourists search­ing for Notre Dame cathe­dral, also just min­utes away, thank­fully didn’t no­tice the rats in bushes just in front of them when they stopped to ask for di­rec­tions.

The furry princes of the city were all over the park, saun­ter­ing across the foot­paths, mer­rily graz­ing in the un­der­growth and far more both­ered by pi­geons com­pet­ing with them for bread­crumbs than by peo­ple walk­ing past and the rat­tle and hum of the morn­ing rush hour. Un­for­tu­nately for City Hall’s ex­ter­mi­na­tors, they also seemed to­tally un­in­ter­ested in re­cently laid traps baited with poi­son. The park at­ten­dant, Pa­trick Lam­bin, said his morn­ing round had yielded just one ca­daver. Be­fore the park was closed in Novem­ber, rats for­ag­ing for food hung like grapes off the trash bins and reg­u­larly scam­pered through the chil­dren’s play area, sow­ing panic, he said.

‘Rats are prof­it­ing’

Lam­bin suspects the in­fes­ta­tion has been made worse by Parisians and tourists who leave food out for the pi­geons and, in par­tic­u­lar, a home­less man who swings by most morn­ings with bags of stale bread re­cov­ered from lo­cal eater­ies. “The rats are prof­it­ing,” he said. In a 39-year ca­reer of ex­ter­mi­na­tion, City Hall’s Gilles De­modice said he’d rarely seen any­thing quite like it. “A few years back, you’d not see so many rats dur­ing the day,” he said. “Now it’s night and day, all the time. So it’s a big worry.” Euro­pean Union reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing the arse­nal of poi­sons and traps that can be used against rats have com­pli­cated the job of ex­ter­mi­na­tion, he ex­plained.

He said they used to drop bis­cuits of poi­son di­rectly into rats’ nests and seal them up, but that tech­nique is no longer al­lowed, forc­ing them to in­stead lay black plas­tic boxes of poi­son - which the rats stu­diously ig­nored - among the bushes. “It’s a lot less ef­fec­tive,” he said. How many mil­lions of rats re­side in Paris is any­one’s guess.

Rey­nald Baudet, who works in the city’s most fa­mous pest-con­trol store and has 30 years in the busi­ness, notes that since one rat cou­ple can pro­duce hun­dreds of off­spring, the pop­u­la­tion can grow quickly, if left unchecked. “This is the first year I’ve seen so many of them,” Baudet said. His store, with dead rats hang­ing in its win­dow and rat traps dec­o­rat­ing its Christ­mas tree, ap­peared in car­toon form in the movie “Rata­touille,” the an­i­mated tale of Remy, a Paris rat with dreams of be­com­ing a chef. “The war must be to­tal,” Baudet said.—AP


PARIS: A rat looks on in the Saint Jac­ques Tower park, in the cen­ter of Paris, Fri­day, Dec 9, 2016.

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