Changes in Rodent Perception Fuelling Rat Explosion in Southern Germany2 min read

-Kristina Völk-

You’d never find someone calling a rat cute or a champion of French cuisine before Ratatouille. With one 2007 Pixar movie, they changed from disease ridden, unhygienic street vermin into the new go-to pet for a kiddy’s Christmas present.

For the little grey crawlers, this is wonderful. Yet, this shift in perception has had drastic consequences on the cleanliness of southern German cities.

Last week, ten firemen rushed to rescue an overweight rat in the German town of Bensheim near Frankfurt. It had trapped itself in the hole of a manhole cover and was unable to struggle free.

“The rat had quite a lot of winter fat and got stuck on its hips – nothing was going forward and nothing back,” animal rescuer Michael Sehr told the news agency DPS. The dramatic mission became a viral sensation after Bensheim’s fireman posted a video of it online.

The reaction on social media has been empathetic and many showed concern about the chubby rat’s health. “Poor little fat rat…. I feel ya!” one Instagram user said.

On the surface, this is just a fat rat stuck in a hole, but the overweight rodent raises questions about an endemic plaguing the southern parts of Germany. In recent years, the rat population has exploded, largely due to hot and dry summers, turning the sewers into a rat’s paradise.

Rodents breed fast and once the population grows, it is nearly impossible to get it under control. Resorting to a middle age pied piper style is off the table so all that can be done is to plant poisonous traps.  

This tactic was chosen by the Bavarian City of Wurzburg, where Ehre council teamed up with pest control companies to work to decrease the number of rats enjoying their life in the cosy underground.

Graphics: Kristina Völk

To kill or not to kill? – This is the question central to the debate. One side trying to resolve a significant public health issue and the other, in the name of animal protection, destroying traps and feeding the pests with slops.

As both sides are so vehemently opposed, it’s unlikely we’ll see any solutions soon. However, social and international media will sure have its fun with future fat rat related emergencies.

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