Paris seeks high ground in fight to keep rats un­der­ground

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

PARIS : Gaz­ing up­ward to take in the majesty of the Eif­fel Tower, visi­tors to Paris may be as­ton­ished to learn that a vi­cious war, pit­ting Man against Rat, is un­fold­ing at their feet.

The Champ de Mars park around the fa­mous mon­u­ment is a bat­tle­ground in a city-wide anti-ro­dent cam­paign that has drawn both cheers and jeers. Sev­eral of the French cap­i­tal’s green spa­ces are off-lim­its for two weeks as rat catch­ers go about a grim task, bait­ing traps with pow­er­ful poi­son. “I haven’t seen any rats, but I wouldn’t want to, that’s dis­gust­ing,” said Brazil­ian tourist Mar­cos Oliveira, 35. Many Paris res­i­dents were keen to see the end of a new scourge in a city whose im­age has al­ready suf­fered from a string of ter­ror at­tacks.

“It’s about time,” one Paris na­tive said. “In all my 40 years I’ve never seen rats in the day­time,” said the dancer, giv­ing her stage name Fabi­ola H.

“They used to hide, but now we see them in broad day­light... ob­vi­ously well fed.” Safely out of sight, they were bliss­fully out of mind, ex­cept in the imag­i­na­tions that cre­ated the hit 2007 car­toon “Rata­touille”, which de­picted a Parisian rat cook­ing in a fa­mous restau­rant. But the city has come un­der fire for al­legedly drag­ging its feet be­fore launch­ing what has been dubbed its “war on rats”.

The cam­paign is seen by some crit­ics as ro­dent mass mur­der-an on­line pe­ti­tion en­ti­tled “Stop the rat geno­cide” has gath­ered 19,000 sig­na­tures-and oth­ers fault the city for fail­ing to keep the streets clean.

Ge­orges Sa­lines, head of Paris’s en­vi­ron­men­tal health ser­vices, is at the cen­tre of the storm. “When it’s an emer­gency... we have to carry out op­er­a­tions to de­stroy the rats, which sat­is­fies no-one,” Sa­lines told AFP in his of­fice adorned with pic­tures of flora and fauna.

“An­i­mal lovers don’t like it, nor do I be­cause I love an­i­mals too,” he said. “Rats mul­ti­ply very, very fast,” the pub­lic health doc­tor said. “As long as they have food, wa­ter and places to bur­row, they’ll mul­ti­ply.” Bi­ol­o­gists say a fe­male rat will nor­mally have three lit­ters to­talling around 20 off­spring in her one-year lifes­pan. Math­e­mat­i­cally, one pair of rats could have more than 46,000 off­spring in 24 months.

‘Killer in chief’

Sa­lines hit back at the an­i­mal rights ac­tivist be­hind the pe­ti­tion, Josette Benchetrit, who la­belled him the “killer in chief”. “I’m well aware of the is­sue of an­i­mals’ suf­fer­ing and re­spect for an­i­mals,” Sa­lines said, call­ing Benchetrit’s at­tack “to­tally unac­cept­able”.

On another front, So­cial­ist Paris Mayor Anne Hi­dalgo came un­der fire in a scathing com­men­tary in the con­ser­va­tive daily Le Fi­garo. “New in the Parisian cityscape: filthy streets be­cause of the to­tal and per­sis­tent dis­ar­ray in the clean­ing ser­vices,” wrote author and politi­cian Serge Feder­busch.

De­scrib­ing the sit­u­a­tion as “Hi­dalchaos”, he ac­cused the eco-friendly Hi­dalgo of drag­ging her feet be­fore “clos­ing sev­eral green spa­ces long enough to kill the beasts!” Feder­busch, who heads a small lib­er­tar­ian party, then said sar­cas­ti­cally: “Great eco­log­i­cal record.”

Geppy Vi­tale, a 55-year-old Swiss tourist, agreed. “Where there are rats, there’s rub­bish, and there­fore sloppy stan­dards. Big cities like Paris should not have too many rats, they are sup­posed to have the means” to pre­vent such a thing.

Sa­lines said the prob­lem was the sheer abun­dance of tasty morsels in Paris. “Rats have to be hun­gry” to go in the traps, he said. That is why parks are be­ing closed for the ex­ter­mi­na­tion ef­fort. “If we leave them open there are too many peo­ple who bring in food,” Sa­lines said. — AFP

PARIS: A pic­ture taken on De­cem­ber 15, 2016 shows a warn­ing plac­ard read­ing “A de­r­ati­sa­tion op­er­a­tion is tak­ing place in the gar­den. To in­crease the ef­fi­ciency, the square will re­main stay close un­til the end of the in­ter­ven­tions” at the square of the Saint Jac­ques tower close to the rue de Rivoli, in Paris. — AFP

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