AMIDST the towering buildings that make up Kuala Lumpur’s iconic skyline, the city is plagued by an ever-increasing population of rats.
For many KL-ites, it is a common sight to see rats scurrying about market places, eateries and back alleys.
Wangsa Maju resident Eddie Fung, 35, said rats were a serious problem in the area.
“You see the rats out and about at all times of the day and some are comparable to the size of a kitten!
“I have seen some rats tearing the plastic bags to get food from the rubbish,” he said.
“The problem is people throw their rubbish everywhere.
“This attracts rodents and other pests,” he said.
Kepong resident K. Savathri, 56, faces a similar situation at her local market.
“The Kepong Baru wet market is very old and has many problems, with the lack of cleanliness being the main one.
“Whenever I am there, I always see rats running about.
“Once the market is closed for the day, you can see them foraging among the rubbish left behind.
“It is very disgusting and I have stopped going there because of this,” she lamented.
A recent news report in an Indonesian newspaper claiming Kuala Lumpur had seven million rats was highlighted in Parliament.
The claim was rubbished by Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.
The minister’s view is echoed by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) Health and Environment director Dr Hayati Abdullah.
“The postulation of the population of rats in the city is markedly over-exaggerated.
“It has no scientific foundation or basis.
“The indication is that rats are nocturnal, so if a lot is seen in broad daylight then there is high density.
“That is a wrong assumption,” she said.
Dr Hayati said the emphasis should not be on the population size, but on ways to control them.
“Rats are drawn to places where sanitation is poor and food is abundant,” she said.
“Signs of infestation include rat droppings, scraping noises after dusk, remnants of rat nests, fruits with rat bites and smudge marks made by rats rubbing fur against beams, rafters, pipes and walls.
“Therefore, the best method is to find and destroy the nest or breeding ground of these pests,” she said.
She added that, market places and illegal dumping sites were two of the most common areas where rats are found.
The bigger rats found in sewers and drains are usually the Rattus norvegicus or the Norway rat. The ones found in houses are known as Rattus rattus or the common black rat.
Rats can spread diseases like typhus, viral and bacterial infection to humans and is also one of the causes of leptospirosis.
Since 2009, DBKL has caught and eliminated some 275,943 rats.
According to Dr Hayati, live rats caught are killed with chloroform and all the carcassas are cremated.
It is an uphill battle for DBKL in tackling the rat infestation in the city.
“On our part, we have several programmes in place to control the rat population, including the 1RM1Tikus anti-rodent programme,” Dr Hayati said.
The programme, initiated in 2008, offers a reward of RM1 for each rat caught.
However, DBKL has an allocation of only RM50,000 annually for the purpose, including making rat traps available to the public for free.
“This year, we conducted the programme at the Chow Kit market, Pudu market and Selayang morning market as well as various residential areas.
“From January to Oct 4, we have destroyed 43,553 rats and we are targeting 60,000 by year end,” Dr Hayati said.
“Other ways we are tackling the problem is by taking quick action to clear illegal dumping sites in the city.
“Through the participation of various authorities like the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (PPSPPA) and Alam Flora, we have embarked on a ‘Zero Illegal Dump Sites” initiative in Kuala Lumpur,” she said, adding the programme was set up in June.
Dr Hayati said DBKL was also relying on rat traps.
“A new trap devised by the Health Department is improving efficiency. Called the ‘ez-catch’, the double-deck trap allows more rats to be trapped.
“We have tested it at wet markets and found it to be effective,” she said, explaining that each was able to contain 20 to 30 rats.
She emphasised that stronger awareness and public participation were ultimately key in controlling the rat population.
“Despite the number of rats eliminated, the problem will persist if we cannot change the attitude and mindset of people.
“Dirty food stalls and residents discarding rubbish indiscriminately will continue to attract rodents and provide breeding environments.
“The authorities can only do so much, the public themselves have to take precautionary measures.
“The only way we can solve the problem is by cutting off the rats’ food supply.
“Several measures can be taken to control their numbers, such as covering and disposing rubbish correctly, storing food properly, placing nets at places with holes, setting up traps and using rat poison,” she said.
Batu Road Retailers Association (Barra) president Datuk V.K Liew said rodents were a perennial problem for retailers along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.
“We have had many complaints from retailers about rats damaging their goods, especially those in the food business.
“In our effort to combat this, we have embarked on several programmes.
“One of which is a gotong-royong exercise that we conducted with DBKl recently.
“Hopefully, we can work more closely with other agencies to ensure we can at least prevent the rats from multiplying here,” he said.