The University of Greenwich

Rats: controlling a global problem

Rats can damage buildings, roads, dykes, pipes, electrical wires, fishing nets and household goods such as blankets, clothes, kitchen utensils and furniture. In keeping with many people’s worst nightmares, rodents are vectors and reservoirs for more than 60 diseases - including leptospirosis, typhus, viral haemorrhagic fevers and, of course, plague. Many living in rural communities in developing countries are bitten by rats while sleeping, leading to gangrenous infections and sometimes permanent disfigurement. Reducing crop damage by rodents not only improves food security and nutrition, but can lead to increased income. Reducing post-harvest loss and food contamination by rats improves health and nutrition, as well as lowering disease transmission.

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  • Education/Training/EmploymentEducation/Training/Employment
  • Environment/ConservationEnvironment/Conservation
  • Health/WellbeingHealth/Wellbeing
  • Poverty Alleviation/ReliefPoverty Alleviation/Relief


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Scientists at the NRI have led several research and development projects in collaboration with researchers and communities in African and Asian countries. These projects share the objective of generating knowledge about rats in order to improve the way they are managed in different settings and communities – with a particular effort to focus on ecologically-based rodent management solutions that are less dangerous and damaging to our health and to the environment. These research and development programmes on rat management start out by collecting basic information about the species of rodents, their habits and the damage they cause. Together with the affected communities, scientists at the NRI develop strategies that are socially acceptable, in-tune with nature and cost-effective. As the communities begin see what life can be like without rats, they learn how to act together and sustain their activities so that their problems with rats are greatly and permanently reduced. £10,000 would help to manage the rat problem in a cluster of 600 households in Bangladesh. £40,000 would fund a regional programme in Bangladesh that will extend rodent management programmes into the Chittagong Hill Tracts where a 50-year cycle of bamboo flowering has recently led to a massive rat outbreak, widespread famine and increased disease. £100,000 per year would fund a rodent training and capacity building programme for rural communities in countries such as India, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Swaziland, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa or DR Congo in order to provide them with the knowledge and tools to more effectively manage their rodent pest problems. £750,000 over the next five years would enable the NRI team to fast track its important work to reduce the incidence of the viral haemorrhagic disease, Lassa Fever, in Sierra Leone – a crucial part of the reconstruction of this war-torn country.