Robots to help in war on rats

Local | Stella Wong and Sophie Hui 21 May 2019

A rat-elimination alliance and Guangzhou's "Rat King" vowed to monitor the government's measures against rodents, as it sets out on a three-month city-wide clean-up operation yesterday.

And Wong King, executive president of International Institute of Utility Specialists, said there were rats hiding in pipes or drains. He suggested using robots to locate the rats inside manholes or pipes.

The government wants to promote rodent control in markets and estates to curb the spread of the hepatitis E virus infection previously only found in rats, following three people being diagnosed with the disease last week, including one who died.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department first cleaned the area along Stewart Road in Wan Chai yesterday afternoon. However, the operation was suspended because of heavy rain.

But before the operation stopped, several FEHD staff cleaned the rear lanes of restaurants and hotels, and put out rat baits and cage traps.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, founder of the Alliance to Combat Rodents, said the government should conduct cleaning operations in all 18 districts at the same time so the rats will not able to escape to another area while one district is being cleaned.

She said if the government adopted such an approach, the problem could be solved in a month.

Leung said she would meet the Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee to reflect the alliance's opinion next week.

She said the government did a poor job of tackling the problem over the past decade, despite having spent HK$1.6 billion on solutions.

She said each district council received about 300 rat-related complaints each year, with some districts even reaching 900.

"They should engage all these technicians, professionals, skilled laborers who know how to do the job, acting together in the same week, in all the 18 districts, so they can really do a better job next time," she said.

The alliance suggests more scientific methods to tackle the problem.

A "rat expert" from Guangzhou criticized the department's way of catching rats, as he said the rats nowadays were more clever and more picky in their choice of food.

"It is definitely ineffective to catch rats by putting a sweet potato in a cage. It might be effective 50 to 60 years ago in rural places. But the rats have changed now," he said.

He also slammed the department's decision to place traps lined up against walls.

But Leung Kwong-yuen, chairman of Pest Control Personnel Association of Hong Kong said it is appropriate as rats prefer to scurry along walls instead of out in open spaces.

Editorial: Rats, let's hope this is no publicity stunt!

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