Rat attack: Paris declares war on city’s exploding rodent population
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Already faced with continued fears of terror attacks and record-high pollution levels, Paris is in the midst of yet another battle to reassure tourists of its attractiveness ahead of the holidays: the city’s new war on rats.
Since the end of November, the City of Light has suffered a rat invasion so immense it has had to temporarily shut down at least nine central parks and gardens to tackle the problem. According to French daily Le Parisien, the French capital now houses nearly 4 million rodents, or 1.75 rats per Parisian.
Many of the parks and gardens are currently riddled with holes due to the rodent infestation, and rats are frequently seen raiding the city’s open-ribbed rubbish bins.
According to several experts, Paris is facing the worst rat invasion in decades.
“We have this problem because people feed them,” Gilles Demodice, a city hall official, told FRANCE 24. “It’s not that they actually want to feed them. They want to feed birds and stray cats – but in the end rodents are the ones that are profiting,” he explained.
For Paris, which is determined to retain its title as the world’s No. 1 tourist destination despite a wave of recent terror attacks and bouts of record-high pollution levels, the rat problem is now being dealt with by a team of expert exterminators on the direct orders of the city hall.
"In order to stop the recent increase in the presence of rats around Paris, an immediate and targeted action plan has been put in place," said Paris city hall in a statement earlier this month, admitting that although it deems total rat eradication “impossible”, it is working to significantly reduce the number.
Aside from placing out poisonous baiting traps, the exterminators are also trying to block sewer system exits to reduce the number of available rat habitats.
The central Tour Saint-Jacques park, just a stone’s throw from city hall, and parts of the famous Champ de Mars in front of the city’s iconic Eiffel Tower, are among the areas that have been temporarily closed due to the rat infestation.
Reynald Baudet, a Parisian pest-control worker, told AP that although Paris has always hosted a rather large rat population, “this is the first year I’ve seen so many of them”.
“The war must be total,” he said.
But not everyone is happy about the rat crackdown. An online petition, “Stop the genocide of rats” has garnered almost 21,000 signatures, urging the city to stop the programme while arguing that, in contrast to the city’s pollution problems, “rats don’t kill anyone”.