Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Losing the War Against Rats

City rats are among the most important but least-studied wildlife in urban environments. Researchers argue they need greater access to urban properties if they are to win the war against rats.

People around the world denounce rats for fouling foods, spreading disease, starting fires, and even disabling motor vehicles. One might assume because of the threat city rats pose to health and safety, scientists would be hot on their tails--tracking every movement, monitoring each disease they carry, and discovering new tools to control their populations and movements.

But that's wrong. According to a new article published in the Journal of Urban Ecology, a team of researchers and pest management professionals in the US and Australia have identified why scientists are losing the international war against rats and what needs to change in order to empower scientists to keep pace.

A mother rat (behind) and two pups (in front) emerge from a storm drain basin in NYC. The mother rat is taking her young to feast on nearby garbage bags filled and left sitting overnight prior to sanitation removal the next day.

Credit: Michael Cammer, NYU

Rats are actually the least studied wildlife in the city, according to the article. Despite the current rates of human urbanization and climate change, scientists face near prohibitive difficulty studying the animals.

The authors suggest that rats are among nature's most perfectly adapted organisms. They closely shadow human settlements, but do so without being directly threatened--or seen--by humans. Consequently, these animals are also difficult to control or research.

The authors suggest that if researchers had greater access to private residences or businesses that would allow them to stow expensive scientific equipment and monitor rats in private, they might see improvements in pathogen surveillance, better understand population distribution, and importantly, test several novel control methods being developed by the team.

"They are the bane of urban environments, associated with poverty, disease, and fines by public health authorities" said Jason Munshi-South, co-author of the paper and associate professor of biology at Fordham University. "Business owners plagued with rats are reluctant to tell anyone, or to share their residences with researchers".

One successful method the team has employed is providing free, confidential, extermination services to willing residences who will allow their rats to be studied before exterminated. However, it is a challenge getting this message out to owners. In order to spread the message, Michael H. Parsons, lead author of the paper and a visiting research scholar at Fordham University is also offering up to a $1,000 USD reward for information leading to a viable research site in Manhattan.

"We neglect to study them at our own peril", added Parsons. "No war has ever decimated 1/3 of the human population. Rats have."




Contacts and sources:
Daniel Luzer
Oxford University Press USA

The paper "Trends in urban rat ecology: A framework to define the prevailing knowledge gaps and incentives for academia, pest management professionals (PMPs) and public health agencies to participate" is available at: https://academic.oup.com/Journal-of-Urban-Ecology/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/jue/jux005

2 comments:

  1. For those people who's relative are Alzheimer’s Disease sufferer and maybe reading this, I find it hard that people are still ignorant of herbal medicine when it comes to treating Alzheimer’s Disease.
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  2. In my own case it was just over four years ago when my Mum began to sound different on the phone. She lived back East with my siblings and my husband and I were living on the West coast and in phone calls it became apparent that my Mum's voice no longer had the same tones of excitement and humor that she used to; and instead it was very flat. At the same time she began to tell us about a situation at work that just didn't seem possible; she was complaining that a group of fellow workers were conspiring to get her. Although Mum had much academic success as a teenager, her behavior had become increasingly odd during the past years. She quit seeing her friends and no longer seemed to care about her appearance or social pursuits. She began wearing the same clothes each day and seldom bathed. She lived with several family members but rarely spoke to any of us. Obviously this whole story seemed very unbelievable and we sensed something was wrong but had no clue as to what it could be. We recommended that my Mum quit her job and look for something else - as we began to wonder if she had a "mental breakdown" and would get better once out of the stressful job situation.
    In the case of Mum, she was having persecurtory delusions, auditory hallucinations and negative symptoms that had lasted for at least Three years. All of these symptoms fit with a diagnosis of Dementia. Her story reflects a common case, in which a high-functioning young adult goes through a major decline in day-to-day skills. Although family and friends may feel this is a loss of the person they knew, the illness can be treated and a good outcome is possible as it all got better when we started using a herbal medicine for her through Aparajita.
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