Rat problem is getting worse, say pest control technicians

The inside of a bait station.

A pest control technician with 30 years of experience says the rat problem on the Atlantic coast is getting worse.

In August, Bo-Kaap residents approached the Atlantic Sun saying they had seen an increase in the number of rats (“Rats gnawing at Bo-Kaap residents’ nerves”, Atlantic Sun, August 18).

Earlier that same month a Sea Point resident took to social media and asked on the Green Point Connected page if anyone else had seen an increase in rats in the area. The post exploded with comments from several seaboard areas.

One resident said: “I’ve lived here for years and I’ve never seen as many rats as in the last month or two.”

Another said: “I’m overrun with them. I have reported it to the council.”

A third wrote: “The rats in Green Point are the size of cats or even bigger. They actually ate all the water pipes in my car a few years ago.”

Overcrowding and a lack of pest control experts, according to the technicians, are contributing factors to the problem, as are garbage bags piled up on street corners waiting to be collected.

“Rats can gnaw through these plastic bins and that’s why you need to put your waste in a plastic bag before throwing it away, if you put wasted food in a bin just like that then the smell attracts the rats,” said Taureq Britton, owner of Brittons Enviromental Services.

“Because there is more waste there is more food for the rats so they do appear bigger or fatter from all this eating. These ground burrowing rats live underground and in the drains so you should only see them at night as they are nocturnal animals, but if you see them during the day then you have a huge problem close by.”

Mr Britton says that with more people coming to live in the city there is more waste being disposed of.

“The more people you have, the more pests you will have, that’s just how it is. It’s prudent to do pest control on a quarterly basis and to maintain bait stations regularly depending on where it is placed. People should discard their waste properly,” he said.

Biotech Pest and Hygiene Services has been in business for 34 years, and owner Feroz Kara believes the rat problem has worsened, adding that restaurants must accept responsibility for their waste.

“When we started there were not as many restaurants and business as there are today. Let’s take for example a fish shop, they should discard their waste every day and not once a week and they should not rely on local municipality to sort this,” said Mr Kara.

“City council has plenty of problems to sort out so the businesses have to make use of private companies to get rid of their trash. So we can’t rely on local government, take care of your shop first.”

Mr Kara adds that there is also a shortage of pest control technicians, which contributes to the pest problem’s mismanagement.

“We lack technicians, guys that have the knowledge and the experience to deal with these problems. You need to know where to put your bait stations and when to service it, you also have to identify the root of the problem,” Mr Kara said.

“I’ll give you an example, a bakery had a rat problem and you can put bait there and kill a few rats but the problem continues. We found a scrap-yard nearby and that’s where the rats were breeding so that was the source of the problem, you tackle the problem there. Maybe your neighbour has a problem, or the supermarket down the road, so you have to solve the problem like that and not tackling it where it happens only,” he said.

Despite the pest control technicians’ warning, Patricia van der Ross, mayoral committee member for community services and health, claims that the City has only received 26 service complaints about rodents since March 1.

“Owners of premises will be required to address any ongoing environmental factors (i.e. accumulation of waste, stagnant water, etc.) that may be contributing to making the area more attractive to rodents. Should the complaint be ongoing, the area may be identified for more regular monitoring and action until control of the rodent numbers has been established,” said Ms Van Der Ross.

She says that depending on where the bait stations are located they are serviced every two weeks and advised businesses to manage their waste removal.

“It is therefore vitally important that all premises take measures to control rodent numbers in areas where their waste is normally stored if they suspect that there may be breeding occurring,” she said.

The City’s mayoral committee member for urban waste management, Grant Twigg, says his department faces several challenges when it comes to waste collection.

“Bags of waste collected by Urban Waste Management Cleansing staff are generally picked up and taken to the landfill later the same day, or the following day at the latest. Due to vehicle availability and cost constraints, it is not possible to reduce waiting times further,” said Mr Twigg.

“It must be noted however that rats would have been attracted by food waste that would have been discarded on the street first, even before cleansing staff can pick up the waste and put it in bags. To effectively prevent pests we need to collectively address littering and dumping and also report these cases to the City’s Environmental Health department,” he said.

Service requests/complaints can be logged online via the City’s e-services portal: https://eservices1.capetown.gov.za/coct/wapl/zsreq_app/index.html

Alternatively, residents can contact the City’s call centre on 0860 103 089.

A technician doing a service on a bait station.