Rat Control & Rodent Management System Singapore | Ratsense

NEA teams up with Stakeholders to Improve Rodent Management    

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has long been on the war against rats. Recently, it has decided to step up further, increasing enforcement measures on operators with breaches in hygiene and proper waste management, especially town councils:

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A picture on vegetable seller Low Mui Tong’s phone showing a rat he caught using a glue board last October. Mr Low, who sells vegetables at Block 259, Bangkit Road, said he used to catch “a lot of rats half a year ago” but has not seen any in the past few months. Photo retrieved from The Straits Times, http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/task-force-set-up-to-fight-rat-menace

“The authorities are trying out a new approach to tackling the problem of rat infestation, by setting up a task force of parties such as town councils and eatery or mall operators to coordinate rat control works.

 

Four areas – namely Redhill Close, Bedok Central, Clementi Avenue 3 and Bangkit Road in Bukit Panjang – were chosen for the pilot, as 40 to 130 burrows were found in each area, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

In each place, the stakeholders will engage pest control operators and coordinate rat control plans to manage the overall situation.The trial aims to “ensure that a holistic and coordinated effort is undertaken to deny rats food and harbourage”, said the agency.

It said early results have shown a 15 to 70 per cent reduction in the number of burrows in each area.

The rat menace has grown in recent years. About 43,000 rat burrows were found in public areas last year, up from about 42,000 in 2014, according to NEA figures.

 

Over the two years, an average of about 85 per cent of the burrows were found in housing estates managed by town councils. More than 80 per cent of these were found near bin chutes and bin centres.

Earlier this month, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Amy Khor, said in Parliament that breaches involving rat infestation in areas run by town councils will lead to stricter enforcement.

In response to Straits Times queries on how enforcement will be stepped up, NEA said town councils now face a $150 fine for a first offence for poor refuse management in their bin centres and central refuse chutes. From July, an additional fine of $200 will be issued – under the Control of Vectors and Pesticides Act – if signs of rat infestation are found in bin centres, central refuse chutes and bin chutes.

Depending on the severity of the problem, town councils may be ordered under the Act to take measures to deal with the rat infestation, on top of the fine, said the spokesman. They may face a fine not exceeding $20,000 if they fail to comply, said NEA.

The Straits Times understands that while these penalties are not new, there would be stricter enforcement. Town councils that ST spoke to welcomed the move.

 

Chairman of Marine Parade Town Council Lim Biow Chuan, also MP for Mountbatten, said it will “work hard” to clear places under its charge if there are rat infestations.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, chairman of Chua Chu Kang Town Council, welcomed the move but raised concerns about how rat nests may be in areas not run by town councils. “Rats don’t recognise boundaries. They cross boundaries,” said Mr Zaqy, also an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC.

A six-month pilot by the Holland- Bukit Panjang Town Council from last October to last month in Bangkit Road has seen results.

About 60 shop owners, four coffee shop owners and a Chinese temple in Bangkit Road took part.

Vegetable seller Low Mui Tong, 54, said he used to catch “a lot of rats” half a year ago. “But for the past few months, I haven’t seen any rats,” he said.

Likewise, the East Coast-Fengshan Town Council has seen results since its pilot started in January.
Public relations manager Danielle Theodora Loh said its weekly rodent treatment programme was intensified. She said there are now fewer rats in common areas such as bin chutes and carpark drains.

-The Straits Times, 26 April 2016.

 

With rodent sightings becoming increasingly common, pest management providers can no longer afford to maintain conventional methods of rodent eradication, and must constantly strive to evolve their strategies to outsmart the rodents. Examples of new strategies include:

 

  1. Consistent bait rotation – The bait on rodent traps needs to be more attractive than the food sources the rodents can find – food from garbage bins and litter, and leftover food scraps at eatries and hawker centres. An ideal bait would be one that is moist and rich in protein.

 

  1. Use of T-Rex Traps over glue boards – When a rodent is trapped on a glue board, its’ squeals of panic warns other rats, and they learn to avoid it. Hence, by using some  T-Rex Traps which provide instant kill,  rodents can be trapped more effectively.
Setting up a rodent t rex trap

T-Rex Traps provide instant kill, thus being more efficient than glue boards, which rodents have learned to avoid.

However, it is not just the duty of town councils or eatery managers, but the responsibility of every resident to keep their estate clean and rat-free. The issue is far beyond merely being unsightly, as rats spread diseases such as leptospirosis and salmonellosis, through their fecal droppings and urine. Thus, this is a serious health concern as well.

 

In order to curb this issue, a change of attitude is needed among us. No intensity of enforcement, and no amount of fines on town councils will solve this problem, until each citizen believes that environmental management of his estate is his personal responsibility as well. A sense of ownership toward the environment is deeply needed among citizens, rather than believing that cleanliness is the responsibility of the NEA or town councils alone. Without this change in attitude, resources devoted to tackle the issue will not be optimised, and the programme will be a long, arduous one before any improvement can be observed.

 

With each member of the public being mindful of cleanliness, and performing simple tasks such as returning their food trays after a meal and cleaning up after themselves, environmental management programmes are sure to be more fruitful, and can achieve more with the same amount of resources. Let’s not continue to think that the ‘Clean and Green’ slogan is only meant for the environmental agencies.

 

References

  1. Task Force Set Up to Fight Rat Menace. The Straits Times, 26 April 2016. Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/task-force-set-up-to-fight-rat-menace

 

New Strategies in Rat Control

Rodent infestations are becoming more serious not just in Singapore, but in other urban cities as well. For example, New York has long been waging war on rats, employing various methods in the past such as trapping, poisoning, hunting by dogs, and even shooting.

Recently, they have been considering a new – and arguably more humane – method of rodent management. SenesTech, a company specialising in reproductive science for pest control, has invented ContraPest: a chemical that kills ovarian follicle cells in female rats, inducing early onset of menopause. These rats would give birth to fewer and fewer offspring each time, and eventually become sterile.

 

No one knows exactly how many rodents reside in New York, but there may be as many rats as humans by some estimates. That’d be 32 million scurrying legs. Rats are remarkably fertile, sometimes birthing 12 pups per litter and as many as seven litters a year. That’s why the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has started a pilot program to sterilize females. It’s teaming with Flagstaff (Ariz.)-based SenesTech, a company that invented ContraPest, a product that, when consumed orally by rats, accelerates egg loss and can cause infertility in days.

 

New York’s rat extermination proposals in the past have included everything from the deployment of World War I-era poison gas to a hunting spree led by rifle-bearing citizens. (The gas was used with some success on Rikers Island, now home to one of the city’s jails; the hunting party apparently was called off at the last minute.) This is the MTA’s first effort to target the rodents’ reproductive organs.

For the next two months, SenesTech will study rat behavior in New York subways. One goal is to pinpoint preferred foods in hopes of making the ContraPest bait more desirable than discarded pizza and candy. “In New York, rats have such a buffet available to them,” says SenesTech co-founder Loretta Mayer, “but they don’t necessarily get a lot of liquid, which is why we’ll be offering them … a semi-solid covered in kind of a cheese wax and also liquid from a bottle feeder.”

Mayer says ContraPest is made up of mostly salt, sugar, fat, an herb—and an industrial chemical called 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide (VCD). The product will be placed inside bait boxes outfitted to monitor rat traffic. The boxes will be placed in subway trash rooms, where garbage is kept until trash trains take it away.

 

The goal is to diminish rat populations—but not wipe them out entirely, as that would simply cause an influx of new rats. “Rats are territorial, so you want to maintain a very low population that keeps other rats from migrating in,” says Mayer. “That way you won’t have an infestation, you’ll manage them so low that folks won’t see them on the subway tracks anymore.” Mayer, who estimates only two or three rats are needed in each 200-square-foot trash room to keep out new rats, says the goal is to reduce the population by up to 75 percent. Once that target is achieved, bait will be removed from the boxes.

 

SenesTech has raised $30 million in research funding from the likes of the National Institutes of Health since being founded in 2002. The private company has 20 employees and expects to become profitable in 2014 by licensing its technology to pest management and agriculture products companies. “We feel quite small in the scope of what we’re trying to do,” says Mayer. SenesTech already is running tests in Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand, mostly to keep rodents from ruining crops such as wheat and rice. It’s also developing a product to sterilize dogs.

 

Mayer says ContraPest does not work on people, nor does it pose them any danger. Rats metabolize the compound into inactive ingredients within 15 minutes of consumption, rendering rat excretion innocuous. “And should the compounds spill and be exposed in the environment … it also breaks down into inactive ingredients,” she says. Contra-Pest also doesn’t appear to cause rat mood swings, says Mayer. “As one person said to me, ‘Wow, don’t you worry? I mean, a whole bunch of large menopausal rats—aren’t they angry?’ Well, we’ve not seen that behavior change.” – Bloomberg Businessweek, 16 March 2013.

 

The chemical, 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide (VCD), reduces follicle number, and therefore, litter size. As opposed to poisoning, ContraPest is not meant to completely eradicate rats, but to diminish their population with time. As VCD breaks down into inactive ingredients when exposed to soil or water, it poses no environmental risks, and no effect on other animals.

A pilot study of ContraPest in Manhattan and Bronx has yielded positive results: rat sightings decreased by 80 – 90 percent.

SenesTech also says that the bait used in ContraPest has to be more attractive than what the rats can find: slices of pizza, bagels, chips, and other half-eaten food item that line streets and subway stations everyday. As these foods are usually dry, a semi-solid bait that tastes of condensed milk might be very attractive to the rats.

 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has advocated this technique as being more humane, and less cruel. Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, opines that “Nature will always trump whatever we try to do, so we might as well do something relatively kind than something that’s cruel.”

 

With the pilot study going smoothly and effectively, one wonders, is rodent sterilisation feasible in Singapore? Rodent sightings horrify and disgust Singaporeans, and often lead to avoidance of the area. Mall and building managers are looking at quick and immediate rodent eradication (aiming for complete eradication rather than management at low population levels). With health and environment agencies, as well as citizens themselves, having an extremely low tolerance of rats, due to transmission of diseases, illness and general uncleanliness, perhaps sterilisation isn’t a viable option for Singapore, at least for now. Control by sterilisation means it would take time to see the results of  population decline, and even then, rodents would not be completely wiped out from urban areas.

A better option for Singapore’s rising rodent issues might be to understand the problem better through the use of tangible data. As rodents are nocturnal and often avoidant of humans, it is usually hard to gauge the presence or severity of a rodent infestation within a premise. Traps are therefore placed with no information about the path of travel of the rodents, resulting in a trial-and-error method.

 

However, this does not have to be the case. With the use of sensors, placed in false ceilings (the area where rodents are most likely to travel, as they usually connect across the entire building), rodent movement and activity can be detected. Traps can then be placed exactly where the rats are travelling, increasing efficiency of capture. Furthermore, by analysing the data, potential entry points can be located and sealed.

Our system of sensors, RATSENSE, can thus be a more viable solution to eradicate rats in buildings and public spaces such as shopping malls, rather than long-term sterilisation programmes.

 

What do YOU think? Would Singaporeans welcome rodent sterilisation programmes, or would they rather rodents got rid of the fast and easy way – by trapping and killing?

What do YOU think? Would Singaporeans welcome rodent sterilisation programmes, or would they rather rodents got rid of the fast and easy way – by trapping and killing?

Let us know your views in the comments below!

 

References

  1. New York is Sterilizing Its Rats. Here’s How. Bloomberg Buisnessweek, 16 March 2013. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-03-15/new-york-is-sterilizing-its-rats-dot-heres-how.
  2.  The Surprisingly Gentle Science Behind New York’s Plan To Sterilize its Rats. Retrieved from http://www.citylab.com/tech/2013/04/surprisingly-gentle-science-behind-new-yorks-plan-sterilize-its-rats/5148/.
  3. New York City Escalates the War on Rats Once Again.  The New York Times, 24 June 2015. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/nyregion/new-york-city-escalates-the-war-on-rats-once-again.html?_r=0.
  4. Mayer, L. (2011). ContraPest – an oral bait for fertility management of rodent pests. Small Business Innovation Research. Retrieved from https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/detail/373802.

 

 

Ten Bizarre Facts About Rats

With increasing rodent incidents in malls, eateries and public spaces, Singaporeans seem to be encountering these furry little creatures more and more frequently. Often, these encounters spark fear, disgust and horror. But how much do we really know about these shy yet intelligent animals?

 

1.Rats cannot vomit.
Yes, it’s true! Vomiting requires the barrier between the stomach and esophagus to be opened, and rats do not have the esophageal muscle strength to open this barrier. Because of this, rats practise very sensitive avoidance towards new or unfamiliar sources of food. This avoidance behaviour may be why it is so difficult to poison a rat. They may also practise pica, ingesting non-food materials such as soil, to dilute the effect of toxins they may have consumed.

 

2. Rats have no sweat glands.
Unlike large mammals that pant or sweat in response to high temperature, a rat has no sweat glands, and therefore cannot regulate body temperature this way. Instead, at high temperatures, a rat decreases rather than increases water intake, and uses behavioural strategies such as seeking shade and burrowing, to avoid the heat.

 

3. A rat can chew through brick!
Rats have powerful incisors (long, sharp front teeth) that never stop growing. Thus, a rat has to gnaw to shorten its incisors, otherwise they would grow in a spiral at an 86 degree angle, and the rat would not be able to close its mouth! In fact, the word ‘rodent’ comes from the Latin word rodere, which means ‘to gnaw’. A rat can chew through almost anything; bricks, lead, aluminium, plastic, and cement! This is why rodent-proofing your premises can often be in vain.blog 1A rat’s incisors never stop growing. Hence they have to constantly gnaw, to wear them out. Photo credit: http://www.anim.med.kyoto-u.ac.jp/NBR/strains/Strains_d.aspx?StrainID=476

 

4. Rats submit to peer pressure.
Previously, conformity was thought to be exhibited only in humans and apes. However, a study in 2007 showed that Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) who have had unpalatable food experiences, will ignore their own experience and choose that same unpalatable item when it sees other rats eating it! This reliance on socially acquired information rather than personal experience, in rats as well as in humans, still puzzles scientists today. To read the full study, click here.

 

5. Rats have social hierarchies.
Like many mammals, rats have complex social structures. An alpha male is usually the strongest and most confident of the group, and all other rats are subordinate to him. Rats also practise social grooming, grooming each other on the shoulders, neck and head. This prevents parasite breakout within the group. Sometimes, dominant rats force their subordinate to groom them!

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A dominant rat may force a subordinate to groom it by sliding underneath. Photo credit: http://www.isamurats.co.uk/rats-interacting-with-other-rats.html

 

6. Rats are addicted to pleasure.
This is one study you may have heard of, especially if you’ve majored in psychology. In the 1950s, psychologists James Olds and Peter Milner implanted electrodes into the brains of rats, and, by pushing a lever, these electrodes would stimulate pleasure. Shockingly, they discovered that the rats were so addicted to the pleasure sensations that they pressed the lever as many as 7,000 times a day! They preferred pressing the lever to food and water. Male rats would ignore females, and females would abandon their newborns, to continually press the lever! This may draw parallel to certain human experiences, choosing pleasure even in the face of health risks (such as the use of psychoactive drugs). You can read the abstract of the study here.

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In Olds’ and Milner’s experiment, rats pushed the lever that would deliver pleasure sensations to their brains, as many as 7,000 times a day! Photo credit: https://trojantopher.wordpress.com/tag/peter-milner/

 

7. Rats may possess empathy.
When a free rat was placed in an arena with a trapped cagemate, the rat learned to release its trapped friend by opening a door (the rats did not open empty cages, or cages with an object in them). Interestingly, all the female rats freed their cagemates, whereas only ⅔ of the male rats did so.This may be consistent with the finding that, like in humans, females are more emphatic than males. Read the full experiment findings here.

 

8. Rats use their whiskers to navigate more than their eyes.
A rat uses its whiskers to determine if it can fit through an opening. The whiskers, being more sensitive than a human’s fingertip, helps rats balance, detect wind (which helps in spatial orientation) and perceive depth at short distances. When swimming, whiskers help the rat feel when its nose is above water. Without whiskers, the rat will drown!

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A rat uses its whiskers for navigation and spatial orientation. Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskers

9. The size of a male rat is related to its mating success.
Male rats are usually larger than females, and the bigger a male is, the higher its chances of reproductive success. This difference in size between the sexes is known as sexual size dimorphism, in which one sex (in this case, the female) select its mate based on its size, as an indicator of fitness or presence of favourable genes. Surprisingly, scientists are yet to figure out if sexual dimorphism is present in humans!

 

10. Rats have great spatial memory.
Rats have such excellent spatial memory that once a rat learns a navigation path, it is not likely to forget it. Rats, like squirrels, also tend to remember exactly where they have kept their food. In one study, when allowed to hide two food items, the rat remembered to retrieve the more preferred item (cheese) first, before the less preferred one! (pretzel). Rats do have a classy taste too, huh.

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Many experiments in psychology employ the use of mazes, such as (from top) radial maze, multiple T-maze, and Morris’ water maze, to test a rat’s spatial memory. Image credit: http://www.ratbehavior.org/RatsAndMazes.htm

 

In essence, many of the above studies point to the fact that rats are highly intelligent creatures. Rodent management therefore cannot be focusing on past methods – it needs to constantly co-evolve to outsmart these creatures. At ORIGIN, we are continually innovating and employing technology and data-based techniques to efficiently manage rodent populations. You can find out more about our system here.

 

References

1.Why rats can’t vomit. Retrieved from http://www.ratbehavior.org/vomit.htm

 

2. Baker, H.J., Lindsey, J.R., & Wesibroth, S.H. (2013). The Laboratory Rat: BIology and Diseases, Volume 1. New York: Academic Press Inc.

 

4. Galef, B.G. & Whiskin, E.E. (2008). ‘Conformity’ in Norway rats? Animal Behaviour, 75, 2035 – 2079.

 

5. Rats Interacting with Other Rats. Retrieved from http://www.isamurats.co.uk/rats-interacting-with-other-rats.html

 

6.Olds, J., & Milner, P. (1954). Positive reinforcement produced by electrical stimulation of septal area and other regions of rat brain. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 47, 419-427.

 

7.Bartel, I. B. A., Decety, J., & Mason, P. (2011). Empathy and Pro-Social Behaviour in Rats. Science, 334, 1427-1430.

 

8. The World Through a Rat’s Whiskers. Retrieved from http://www.ratbehavior.org/RatWhiskers.htm

 

9. Vitt, L. J., & Caldwell, J.P. (2014). Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles, 4th Edition. Oklahoma: Elsevier..

 

10. Bird, L. R., Roberts, W. A., Abroms, B., Kit, K. A., & Crupi, C. (2003). Spatial memory for food hidden by rats (Rattus norvegicus) on the radial maze: studies of memory for where, what and when. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 117, 176-187.

 

10. Rotblat, H.L., Bever, T.G., & Terrace, H. S. (1982). Animal Cognition. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

ORIGIN Is In The News!

 

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Our customer care executive, Soon Tat, placing our RATSENSE sensors in the false ceiling of an office. Photo credit: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/a-trap-for-a-rat-thats-the-catch

 

ORIGIN appeared in the Straits Times last month, featuring RATSENSE! Read the article here! Our director, Deanne, highlighted that current rodent management practices are not evolving as quickly as rodent intelligence is, and we need to constantly outsmart these creatures. ORIGIN is continually improving its strategies, to always stay one step ahead of these rodents.

 

Here’s why our RATSENSE sensors are smarter than the rats:

 

1. The rats are not trapped….yet.                                                                                                                                                      RATSENSE is a system of sensors, that detects, but does not trap or kill rats. As they pose no risk or danger, the rats, though they may be suspicious at first, gradually ignore these sensors, and go about their daily activities in the presence of these sensors. After about one month of being acclimatised to the sensors, THEN we place the traps…exactly where the rats are travelling, and when they least expect it!

 

2. The sensors can be placed on pipes and ducting.                                                                                                                  Usually, rodent traps are placed on false ceiling panels. Roof rats, being excellent climbers, often travel on pipes and ducting above the false ceiling panels, hence avoiding these traps.  As these pipes are often connected through the building, the rats have unlimited access to almost any part of the building. RATSENSE sensors can be tied to these pipes and ducting, to locate the travel pathways of these sneaky creatures.

 

3. The sensors are there all the time.                                                                                                                                                  As rodents are nocturnal, it is no wonder pest managers report no rodent sightings when they inspect false ceilings. RATSENSE sensors, being active 24/7, will be able to capture rodent activity when they are most active (and when we’re not).

 

As the article mentioned, building managers should be wary of these creatures, and take steps that are preventive rather than reactive, lest the rodents outsmart them, and gnaw a big hole into their reputation.

 

Interested to learn more about RATSENSE? Click here, or ask us!