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big decline in rats
New traps trigger big decline in rats at Pelorus   Gas triggered traps are being used to trap rats at the Bat Recovery Project at Pelorus Bridge scenic reserve. Gas-powered traps have triggered a "dramatic decline" in rat numbers in the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, conservationists say. The 60 automatic traps, which can automatically reset up to 24 times, were introduced to the Pelorus catchment five weeks ago.  The Pelorus Bridge reserve is home to a critically endangered population of long-tailed bats.  Te Hoeire Bat Recovery Project manager Debs Martin said there had been a big drop off in rat density in the area where the traps had been used compared to the control area  within the Pelorus catchment where no traps were placed. The team had not collated exact numbers, but would have more data after the next check up in mid-October.  Martin said the lure inside the trap only needed replacing once every six months, making it an economic way of pest trapping. Once the animal is killed, it falls from the trap, which is then reset. One of the Goodnature A24 traps cost $130. That was more expensive than other traps, but they needed frequent checking.  "Cost weighed up against effectiveness and need for frequent checking, especially during a rat plague," Martin said. It took the team of three members two hours to attach the traps to trees spaced 100 meters apart in the 200 hectare trapping area. The traps were placed 900mm up trees so weka were not caught.  "Weka are really inquisitive ... but the weka would have to fly up and extend their necks straight up to get into it.  "They're just not that agile." Martin said they did not know exactly how many bats were in the catchment, but estimated there were at least two or three colonies.  The bat recovery project aimed to create a predator-free Pelorus catchment that would help other species as well. "We know that the bats really like the Pelorus catchment, we don't really know why, although we suspect there's still some big old big grand trees that are in that catchment and there's so much that hasn't been cut down." Martin said the group would eventually like to see the reintroduction of some species, such as the blue duck, kākāriki, robins, toutouwai and ultimately the great spotted kiwi.   MARION VAN DIJK

worlds most deadly
What do Odysseus and TV wildlife expert Steve Irwin have in common? (Stingray barbs killed them both.) What is the most venomous creature in the world? (The Australian box jellyfish.) What does it feel like to get high on cobra venom? (Weird.) Could bee venom cure Lyme disease? (Possibly.) These are some of the fascinating stories Christie Wilcox tells in Venomous: How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry. When National Geographic caught up with her by phone in Hawaii, she explained why the king cobra packs such a punch; how snakes may have helped our ancestors evolve bigger brains; and why the Gila monster’s venom may hold the key to the treatment of diabetes and even Alzheimer’s. [Find out about the medical potential of venom.] Let’s cut to the chase: What are the five most dangerous venomous creatures in the world? Oh, I love that question! [Laughs uproariously] You have to give snakes their due because overall snakes kill 90,000-plus people a year and disable countless more—though the sad fact is we don’t exactly know [how many] because a lot of these places are poor and don’t have medical systems that allow good reporting. The main places people are dying are Africa, Sri Lanka, India, and South America. In Africa there is a snake bite crisis because not only do they have deadly snakes that cause significant morbidity and mortality, but the only good antivenom we used to have is not being made anymore. At the top of the snake list is the king cobra. Compared to other snakes, their venom isn’t particularly potent, but they can inject massive volumes and they’re huge, seven-to-eight-foot-long snakes. Next, I would put the Australian box jellyfish because they can kill in less than five minutes. The Conus geographus, or geographic cone snail, has a 70 to 80 percent fatality rate when it stings but, luckily for us, it’s very rare. I would also include the Lonomia caterpillar because I like the way it kills. [Laughs] It’s this tiny, furry caterpillar, but it can cause massive internal hemorrhaging. That’s just so badass. [Laughs] Number one is the mosquito, though. And I have a specific reason for saying that. When people talk about venomous, they talk about venomous to humans. And by far and away the most dangerous creatures to humans on this planet, other than ourselves, are mosquitoes. By Simon Worrall

pest control north shore rats
It is not the sort of animal that is usually encouraged to thrive on the streets of Southampton. But the authorities are having to wage a war against an infestation of rats in a Southampton community after a local resident has taken to feeding the rodents. Such is his fondness for looking after the animals, he has been dubbed ‘Ratman’ by locals. He has been seen leaving food around the streets and has also been spotted buying up to 20kg bags of wheat, which has been recovered from the rats’ burrows around the Highfield area where the infestation has taken hold. As a result of public health concerns, it is understood the man has been handed a Community Protection Notice in a bid to stop him encouraging the rats. The notice, which is similar to an anti-social behaviour order, means he faces being fined if he doesn’t stop feeding them. Such is the scale of the problem it has led to Highfield Church graveyard being closed to the public. Residents have also been advised to keep their pets indoors as a wide-scale pest control operation, which includes laying poison, has been launched. Rodent specialists will spend the next six weeks putting poison down burrows in order to establish the extent of the network, after previous attempts at getting rid of the rodents failed. Dogs have been used to hunt them down, whilst pest controllers have also used burrow baiting and attempted to cull the rodents. Now a mass programme of laying down poison has begun, with pest controllers warning it could take up to two months to get the problem under control. Southampton city council’s pest control manager Justin Crow said there is ‘an abundance’ of rats in the area centred on the edge of the Common around Highfield. He said: “It’s a difficult situation but it’s got to be resolved. It’s a public health concern and has just got so desperate. “We’ve tried everything from culls to terriers but they don’t achieve a lot – it’s poisoning that will get rid of them. The rats are destroying the ecology of the area.” Pest control have alerted tree surgeons to the problem, as the extensive burrows made by the vermin could damage tree roots making them dangerous. Wardens at the busy Highfield Church – next door to Highfield Church of England Primary School – have closed the churchyard to prevent people using it as a shortcut whilst the pest control programme is underway. The Furzedown Road area of the Common is said to be the worst affected, with extensive undergrowth affording ‘harbourage’ for the rodent population, whilst the network is thought to spread as far as Burgess Road and beyond, with evidence of rats also at Woodmill. According to pest control, the problem in the area is as a result of food being left out for the rats intentionally by the local resident. Rashers of bacon have been seen strewn on pavements whilst he has been seen leaving bird seed near their burrows. One residents, who asked not to be named, said: “It is just awful; it is thanks to him that we now have pest control on our doorsteps. It is disgusting the food he leaves all over the place. No wonder they are thriving.” Furzedown Road resident Clare Mar-Molinero said the rats have even got bigger in size. She said: “It’s been significantly worse this year... they do seem to be bigger. My cats can’t get hold of them - only the smaller ones. “All of our fruit was stolen from the fruit trees in the garden – all our plums, figs and peaches are gone and it can only be rats. I want my garden back now!” by dailyecho

rat exterminator north shore
First, the myths. There are no “super rats”. Apart from a specific subtropical breed, they do not get much bigger than 20 inches long, including the tail. They are not blind, nor are they afraid of cats. They do not carry rabies. They do not, as was reported in 1969 regarding an island in Indonesia, fall from the sky. Their communities are not led by elusive, giant “king rats”. Rat skeletons cannot liquefy and reconstitute at will. (For some otherwise rational people, this is a genuine concern.) They are not indestructible, and there are not as many of them as we think. The one-rat-per-human in New York City estimate is pure fiction. Consider this the good news. In most other respects, “the rat problem”, as it has come to be known, is a perfect nightmare. Wherever humans go, rats follow, forming shadow cities under our metropolises and hollows beneath our farmlands. They thrive in our squalor, making homes of our sewers, abandoned alleys, and neglected parks. They poison food, bite babies, undermine buildings, spread disease, decimate crop yields, and very occasionally eat people alive. A male and female left to their own devices for one year – the average lifespan of a city rat – can beget 15,000 descendants. There may be no “king rat”, but there are “rat kings”, groups of up to 30 rats whose tails have knotted together to form one giant, swirling mass. Rats may be unable to liquefy their bones to slide under doors, but they don’t need to: their skeletons are so flexible that they can squeeze their way through any hole or crack wider than half an inch. They are cannibals, and they sometimes laugh (sort of) – especially when tickled. They can appear en masse, as if from nowhere, moving as fast as seven feet per second. They do not carry rabies, but a 2014 study from Columbia University found that the average New York City subway rat carried 18 viruses previously unknown to science, along with dozens of familiar, dangerous pathogens, such as C difficile andhepatitis C. As recently as 1994 there was a major recurrence of bubonic plague in India, an unpleasant flashback to the 14th century, when that rat-borne illness killed 25 million people in five years. Collectively, rats are responsible for more human death than any other mammal on earth. Humans have a peculiar talent for exterminating other species. In the case of rats, we have been pursuing their total demise for centuries. We have invented elaborate, gruesome traps. We have trained dogs, ferrets, and cats to kill them. We have invented ultrasonic machines to drive them away with high-pitched noise. (Those machines, still popular, do not work.) We have poisoned them in their millions. In 1930, faced with a rat infestation on Rikers Island, New York City officials flushed the area with mustard gas. In the late 1940s, scientists developed anticoagulants to treat thrombosis in humans, and some years later supertoxic versions of the drugs were developed in order to kill rats by making them bleed to death from the inside after a single dose. Cityscapes and farmlands were drenched with thousands of tons of these chemicals. During the 1970s, we used DDT. These days, rat poison is not just sown in the earth by the truckload, it is rained from helicopters that track the rats with radar – in 2011 80 metric tonnes of poison-laced bait were dumped on to Henderson Island, home to one of the last untouched coral reefs in the South Pacific. In 2010, Chicago officials went “natural”: figuring a natural predator might track and kill rats, they released 60 coyotes wearing radio collars on to the city streets. How is it that we can send robots to Mars and yet remain unable to keep rats from threatening our food supplies? Still, here they are. According to Bobby Corrigan, the world’s leading expert on rodent control, many of the world’s great cities remain totally overcome. “In New York – we’re losing that war in a big way,” he told me. Combat metaphors have become a central feature of rat conversation among pest control professionals. In Robert Sullivan’s 2014 book Rats, he described humanity’s relationship with the species as an “unending and brutish war”, a battle we seem always, always to lose. Why? How is it that we can send robots to Mars, build the internet, keep alive infants born so early that their skin isn’t even fully made – and yet remain unable to keep rats from threatening our food supplies, biting our babies, and appearing in our toilet bowls? frankly, rodents are the most successful species,” Loretta Mayer told me recently. “After the next holocaust, rats and Twinkies will be the only things left.” Mayer is a biologist, and she contends that the rat problem is actually a human problem, a result of our foolish choices and failures of imagination. In 2007, she co-founded SenesTech, a biotech startup that offers the promise of an armistice in a conflict that has lasted thousands of years. The concept is simple: rat birth control The rat’s primary survival skill, as a species, is its unnerving rate of reproduction. Female rats ovulate every four days, copulate dozens of times a day and remain fertile until they die. (Like humans, they have sex for pleasure as well as for procreation.) This is how you go from two to 15,000 in a single year. When poison or traps thin out a population, they mate faster until their numbers regenerate. Conversely, if you can keep them from mating, colonies collapse in weeks and do not rebound. Solving the rat problem by putting them on the pill sounds ridiculous. Until recently no pharmaceutical product existed that could make rats infertile, and even if it had, there was still the question of how it could be administered. But if such a thing were to work, the impact could be historic. Rats would die off without the need for poison, radar or coyotes. SenesTech, which is based in Flagstaff, Arizona, claims to have created a liquid that will do exactly that. In tests conducted in Indonesian rice fields, South Carolina pig farms, the suburbs of Boston and the New York City subway, the product, called ContraPest, caused a drop in rat populations of roughly 40% in 12 weeks. This autumn, for the first time, the company is making ContraPest available to commercial markets in the US and Europe. The team at SenesTech believes it could be the first meaningful advance in the fight against rats in a hundred years, and the first viable alternative to poison. Mayer was blunt about the implications: “This will change the world.” Mayer is a tall, vigorous woman in her mid-60s with bright eyes, spiky grey hair and a toothy grin. Her ideologies of choice are Buddhism and the Girl Scouts. “It’s kind of my core,” she said of the latter, “to do for others.” In conversation, her manner is so upbeat that she seems to be holding forth radiantly before an audience or on the verge of bursting into song. When asked how she is doing, she frequently responds in a near-rapture: “If I was any better, I’d be a twin!” – she also appears to enjoy watching people wonder whether this is an expression they should know. When I took a seat in her office earlier this year, she clapped her hands triumphantly and said “Ooh! You’re sitting in history and strength!” There was a pause. “I had a feng shui person come and do my office,” she explained.  by Jordan Kisner

pest control auckland rats; rat exterminator north shore
Pest control reports high surge in rat infestations in Ireland   reland's rat population has exploded. As many as 4 out of 5 jobs for Pest controllers this season are rat- Fears are growing that Ireland's rat population has exploded, as pest control experts report the number of vermin-infested households across the country has soared to unprecedented levels. Pest controllers have noted an unusual surge in the number of call-outs for rodent-infested homes over the summer months, with as many as four out of five jobs over the season being rat-related. The problem has become so widespread that in recent weeks some pest control companies ran out of specialist equipment and supplies to tackle rat infestations. Experts believe the sharp spike in vermin-related cases is due to a combination of increased building work, a rise in fly-tipping and the mild weather of last winter. Trevor Hayden, who runs nationwide company Complete Pest Control, said his team has been tackling multiple rat-infested households every single day this year, the first time this has happened. "In the past rats have generally been a problem for householders mainly in the winter months, but this year there has been no let-up at all since the start of the year, and that's something that's never happened before,” he said. "We've had rat jobs every single day of the year and over the summer months we've been getting between 15 and 20 calls a day for rats, which represents about 80 percent of our business. You'd normally expect ants and wasps to be the dominant pest in summer, but this time it's been rats that have been causing most havoc.” Hayden, who works with the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use, has previously voiced his concerns about the increased size of rats, caused by rodents growing immune to conventional poison. He said he believes the spread of vermin in Irish homes has been accelerated by failed home treatments which have helped rats grow bigger and stronger, as well as building up their immunity.   Nick Bramhill

pest control north shore auckland
Black rats rainforest invasion 'speeded by deforestation' By Matt McGrath   Cutting down trees in rainforests facilitates the spread of invasive black rats, a study suggests. The rodents normally avoid mature forests with large trees as they provide little in the way of cover. But researchers, writing in Biotropica, say that logging makes rainforests more attractive for rats as fallen wood contains more insects which they eat. Scientists are concerned that the invading black rats will be bad news for native mammals. Sometimes called the ship rat, these rodents have spread around the world over the past 400 years, often causing the extinctions of native species and spreading disease. Noisy trails Much of their notoriety rests on the idea that black rats were the origin of bubonic plague, although recent research casts doubt on that notion. Black rats have usually avoided older forests as they contain large trees which do not provide much in the way of ground level protection. They also tend to have leafy forest floors which are noisy for rats to run through, as they attract predators. This new study examined the idea that logging of trees in rainforests might facilitate the spread of the rodents. The researchers looked at the island of Borneo where large tracts of the natural forest have been degraded. It had been believed that black rats were confined to urban areas in Borneo. To test the idea that they might spread into deforested regions, the scientists trapped rats from four different species - they then attached small spools of cotton thread to their backs and and tracked their movements. Across the animals in the study, the researchers found that the black rats had the strongest preference for the type of disturbed habitat associated with logging. The increased amount of fallen wood boosted the amount of insects which the rats eat. The logged forests also have more undergrowth which provides better cover. The researchers believe that black rats favour these small changes far more than related species. "Logging creates micro-environments that black rats love, helping them move in," said study co-author Dr Rob Ewers from Imperial College London. "This could be bad news for native mammals who might not be able to compete with black rats for food and resources. It's also bad for the forest, as many small mammals are important seed dispersers, helping rainforest plants to grow, and they are also prey for larger animals." The researchers say that the widespread destruction of forests throughout the tropics may well be multiplying the threat from invasive species like black rats. They believe the presence of these rats could pose a significant threat to nesting birds and other small mammals. The scientists say that the way that logging is done can have a big impact on the suitability of the land for the black rats. The more dead wood that is left behind the better the black rats like it. If felled trees were more accurately cleared as well as the vines that connect the trees, the rat's progress might be curbed.

Spread of disease from Rats mapped
Scientists say they have developed a better way to predict how animal diseases can spill over into humans. Their model for Lassa fever, which is spread by rats, predicts that there will be twice as many human cases of the disease in Africa by 2070. The method can be applied to other disease threats such as Ebola and Zika, they say. Like the Ebola virus, the Lassa virus causes haemorrhagic fever and can be fatal. Lassa fever virus currently affects between 100,000 and one million people a year in western sub-Saharan Africa. A rat found in parts of the continent can pass the virus to people. Scientists led by Prof Kate Jones of the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at UCL looked at about 400 known outbreaks of Lassa fever between 1967 and 2012. Lassa fever Lassa virus is carried by the Mastomys rat, which is found in parts of Africa. The virus is passed to people through direct contact with infected rats by catching and preparing them for food, or by food or household items contaminated with rat droppings or urine. The virus can also be transmitted through contact with body fluids of an infected person. Around 80% of people with Lassa virus have no symptoms or have symptoms that mimic other illnesses, such as malaria. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, abdominal pains, sore throat and facial swelling.   They developed a model to calculate how often people are likely to come into contact with disease-carrying animals and the risk of the virus spilling over. It shows more areas of West Africa are at risk from Lassa fever spill-over events than previously thought. Disease outbreaks "Our model suggests that in future, it is likely to become a greater burden on local communities spreading to more areas with approximately twice as many spill-over events predicted by 2070," Dr Jones and colleagues from the University of Cambridge and the Zoological Society London report in the journal, Methods in Ecolspreadogy and Evolution. The method takes into account environmental change and the way human populations are expected to grow. The projected increase in cases is largely due to climate change, with the rat that passes it to people (M. natalensis) thriving in hot and wet conditions, they say. Meanwhile, growth in human populations in certain areas will mean more people coming into contact with the rodent. "This model is a major improvement in our understanding of the spread of diseases from animals to people," explained Prof Jones.   "We hope it can be used to help communities prepare and respond to disease outbreaks, as well as to make decisions about environmental change factors that may be within their control." Investment need More than 60% of emerging infectious diseases originate in animals. As well as well-known threats such as Ebola and Zika, other diseases including Lassa fever already affect thousands of people and are expected to spread as the world warms. "Our new approach successfully predicts outbreaks of individual diseases by pairing the changes in the host's distribution as the environment changes with the mechanics of how that disease spreads from animals to people, which hasn't been done before, " said co-researcher Dr David Redding of UCL. The researchers say the model can be refined to include diseases such as Ebola and Zika. Prof Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham, who was not involved in the research, said if the models hold true, then future climate change and population growth will significantly increase the number of Lassa fever outbreaks - and this is likely to be true for other infectious diseases. "The threat of emerging and neglected diseases will not go away and we need to invest in research and global healthcare systems to ensure that we are ready to deal with these threats and their consequences," he said. By Helen Briggs