Wild Tracks

On behalf of the world's wild species

Rats to the Rescue

Popular press, movies and television shows rarely, if ever, have anything good to say about rats. Police in India, however, are very happy to have them.

It seems officials in India’s Haryana state have a plague of mice infesting office police records and destroying evidence. The small rodents have been steadily munching their way through official documents, clothing and even the jute sacks police use to store narcotics, alcohol and weapons from suspects. The mice seem to be particularly fond of jute bags laced with the aroma of poppy husks – a common narcotic seized in large quantities.

About a month ago, a member of the public suggested they use domesticated white rats. Willing to try anything at this point, police purchased two white rats for about $4.00 US.

Domesticated white rat

Domesticated white rat

Apparently, it’s working. Police release the larger rodents each night, and the mice have just disappeared. While officers have no idea why it’s working, they’re overjoyed the station is now free of mice, and their night guards are happy to work for fresh milk and roti.

Rodents are a huge problem in India. Officials say tons of food grain are lost to mice and rats each year, while field rats weaken canal banks with their burrows. Governments spend millions of dollars every year to try and control the rat menace.

Operations to remove landmines along the Indian-Pakistan border became increasingly precarious after it was discovered rats had moved hundreds of anti-personnel mines from their mapped locations.

This experiment with domesticated white rats has attracted the attention of animal experts, who think it could be a solution to the rodent problem. The police department has already had a number of queries from the small animals lab of the Haryana Agriculture University.

If Indian officials are looking at using domesticated white rats in large quantities, I dearly hope they think it through first. White rats are comfortable with humans, and if they mix with wild rodents and then return to human owners, they could be carrying a multitude of diseases from the wild animals. And if they don’t sterlize the white rats before releasing them, they’ll reallly have rat problem – in a variety of colors.

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