Where humans gather, animals thrive. Since the birth of agriculture and even some time before, humans have spread domesticated species across the planet. From wheat to sheep, our societies are dependent on multiplying the species that support us. It is not surprising that cows account for nearly twice the biomass compared to humans. Naturally a host of free-riders took advantage of the accumulation of grain and resources. The most notable ones are surely rodents. They have been eating our grain and waste for thousands of years and are probably one of the driving forces behind the domestication of cats.
Yet we have not been able to get rid of this pest. There are between 1 and 2.5 million rats in Brussels – only so few thanks to two population control campaigns per year by Vivaqua, the city’s water management company. If they have thrived it is because cities, and perhaps dirty cities in particular, provide a perfect ecosystem for this species. They are estimated to eat about a third of the city’s waste, so in a way they help the city recycle its waste. One of the issues for their proliferation, besides the ever-growing abundance of food, are the brick walls of old sewer networks, which provide an ideal material for rats to build their lairs.
Based on previous campaigns, Vivaqua will lower anticoagulants to the city sewers to reduce their population. Thanks to these campaigns the population is under control, but more could be done to reduce problems at the source. The reduction of littering would greatly reduce the quantity of food available and thus reduce the rats’ reproduction. Also, citizens should contact public authorities in case of a rat infestation, which will intervene with the support of specialised personnel. In fact, taking matters in your own hands could prove dangerous, particularly for pets and children that might come in contact with the poison.
Some people might think we want to eradicate rats, but given their resilience and the service they provide by keeping our sewers clogged, we must grow accustomed to sharing the urban space with these creatures that have been following us around for thousands of years.