The Brazen New Plan To Pit Rats Against Cockroaches In Sydney Streets
In the world of unwanted Sydney street life, it's one pest against the other.
If you've walked around Sydney late at night in summer, chances are at least one critter has made your skin crawl after scurrying in your path -- a cockroach... or even worse, a rat.
With at least two restaurants across the city recently issuing apologies after giant rats were filmed inside their premises, questions have been raised over why we've been seeing a lot more of these pests, and what if anything, we can do about it.
That's where Peter Banks and his team from Sydney University come in.
Banks and his team have been approved for new research to train rats to understand and hunt cockroaches.
"The idea is that predators develop what we call search images, where they hunt for something preferentially," Banks told 10 daily, saying it was similar to how dogs are trained.
Water rats, which can reach up a whopping one kilogram, are Australian native rats. Having them around Sydney is actually good because they deter introduced rats, Banks explained.
They are large aggressive carnivorous rats, that will attack the introduced rats and keep them away.
But Banks believes these rats can be trained to go even further, and he is about to launch a brazen plan to pitch one Australian pest against another.
It's hoped the research will bring in its first successful results by the end of the year, and Banks aims to expand the program to target other introduced pests as well.
"The general idea is to try and pre-arm species with the ability to recognise invaders before they actually land in the spot," he said.
Banks, a Professor of Conservation Biology, said there were a myriad of reasons why we might be seeing more of them around the city.
According to the City of Sydney council, the growing and constantly changing city skyline may be to blame for the seeming increase pest activity.
"An unprecedented number of major demolition and construction works have been occurring throughout the CBD, stirring up rat populations and leading to increased rat movements," the Council said in a statement to 10 daily, after footage of a rat inside Din Tai Fung at Westfield Sydney went viral.
"Unfortunately, rat activity can’t be completely eradicated and there will always be some public areas that require further baiting, particularly where food and waste are discarded by the public.
"The City has a comprehensive pest control program that involves installing and monitoring bait stations in public places in line with industry best practice," City of Sydney said last week.
The video of the rat at Din Tai Fung surfaced last Wednesday and came just a week after fast food outlet Oporto was forced to shut a busy store in Sydney's Broadway area after a video showed rats running inside the store.
"They are well and truly adapted to live with us, they have evolved with us and they live off what we leave behind," Banks explained, adding that food scraps and spillages left around by Sydneysiders, often attract rats.
Banks said more rats are seen in the summer months because they're in the peak of their breeding season, but claims there hasn't been a noticeable spike in the general populations this year.
Just because the brown rat or sewer rat, pop up in public places and eateries, it doesn't necessarily mean those restaurants are dirty, Banks said.
"It just means the rats have found something there they can live off, or they may have just been going in to inspect," Banks told 10 News First.
He explained that rats actually spend a lot of time grooming their fur and each other to get rid of parasites.
"They themselves are very clean, but they do carry a lot of bacteria and viruses that can affect humans," he said, adding that these were predominantly found in their urine.
Asian House geckos will be the rats' next target if the cockroach trial is successful, as the invasive species continues spreading down the coast.
"If we can train rats here to recognise the gecko then potentially the rats can wipe them out," Banks said.
Regardless of whether we love or hate them, Banks believes there's one thing that's certain... rats are certainly not going anywhere.
So it's time to place your bets Sydney, whether you're team rat or team cockroach, let the best pest army win.
Featured Image: Getty Images