With rat infestations becoming an increasingly serious problem across Dublin’s north inner city and Clondalkin area, a radical new solution may be needed – an experimental new product on the market might be that solution.
A shop owner in Monkstown Crescent reported last month that rats were emerging en masse from a rat hole that had only recently been filled in by the Council. “You know the way it goes – once there’s one, there’s always more,” said the shop owner, who wished to remain anonymous. Of course this is entirely true. Rats breed at a phenomenal rate, and once one infiltrates an area many more are likely to do the same. However, a new solution to the rat problem might now be available; a solution that doesn’t kill rats but can instead reduce their numbers significantly.
The problem of rat infestation has become a growing concern across all of Dublin, with notable affected areas including Clondalkin and the North Inner City. A protest outside Dublin City Council offices on Parnell Street back in August highlighted the urgency of the issue for many Dublin residents. Housing estates like Grange View Place have tried everything to bring the numbers of rats under control, including bait boxes and trained dogs, with little in the way of result. There is even a fear amongst residents that soon they will be unable to let their children outside or open their windows for fear of the rats getting in.
Rat infestation is not a new problem. It is in fact one of the oldest problems faced by urban dwellers. Rats, as a species, are one of the world’s best survivors, and they tend to settle anywhere where they can find a sustainable food source. This makes cities, with their abundance of food waste, a particular attractive prospect – to the detriment of its human residents.
The typical brown rat can breed throughout the year if conditions are suitable, with a female producing up to five litters a year. The gestation period is only 21 days, and litters can number up to 14, although seven is most common. This makes rats a notoriously difficult pest to control – a sentiment that many Dublin resident can attest to. Traditional methods of pest control, such as poisoning and hunting, can kill a certain percentage of rats, but it comes nowhere close to the rodent’s ability to regenerate its numbers.
However, this age old problem of how to deal with rats may soon become a thing of the past. A new rat control solution that can render the rodents infertile has recently been approved for use by the EPA in the US. In tests conducted in Indonesian rice fields, South Carolina pig farms, the suburbs of Boston and the New York City subway, the product, called ContraPest, caused a drop in rat populations of roughly 40% in 12 weeks. This winter, for the first time, SenesTech, based in Arizona, are making ContraPest available to commercial markets in the US and Europe.
The new innovation is a non-lethal approach that targets reproduction, making it more humane, less harmful to the environment, and more effective in providing a sustainable solution to pest infestations than traditional lethal pest management methods. The approach is designed to promote food security and reduce infrastructure damage, disease outbreaks, environmental contamination and other costs associated with rodent infestations.
Dr. Loretta Mayer, who invented the new solution, is not modest about the implications of her product, exclaiming, “This will change the world”. Indeed there hasn’t been any real innovation in rat control since the Middle Ages. It has simply become accepted that rats are a tricky adversary whose numbers we can’t fully control.
Yet, a more obviously solution to Mayer’s method has been known for sometimes, it has just never been properly implemented. Integrated pest management, or IPM, maintains that if people – particularly urban-dwellers – took more care with their environment, rats wouldn’t thrive. But this means undertaking expensive endeavours such as stopping illegal dumping and fixing crumbling infrastructure. These issues will of course have to be dealt with for reasons that go beyond rat control. However, for the residents of Clondalkin and the North Inner City, there could be already be an easy solution available.