The Council of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine yesterday announced the start of the annual nationwide rat extermination week, which begins today.
The bureau and local governments have long cooperated on a rat extermination operation for one week each November in a bid to reduce the number of rats in rural areas, which often cause crop loss, and rats in urban areas that may transmit diseases.
This year’s extermination week runs from today through Sunday and local governments will distribute poisoned rat bait to the public.
However, researchers last year raised concerns that poisoning may harm birds of prey that feed on rodents, and while rats have very high reproductive rates, raptors have lower reproductive rates and some are endangered species that may be seriously affected by the annual operation.
Lin Wen-loung (林文隆) of the Wild Bird Rescue Institute of Taichung (now known as the Taichung Wildlife Conservation Group) said in January last year that the institute had seen an owl feeding a rat to its three chicks and they all died. He also said that the institute received about 30 birds of prey from central Taiwan each year that had died from poisoning.
This year, to ensure the preservation of the common kestrel, collared scops owl, eastern grass-owl and other species, the bureau said it would place less rat bait in public areas where such birds are often seen.
The bureau also said that it has commissioned the Raptor Research Group of Taiwan to evaluate rat-prevention measures in rural areas and invited some ornithologists from overseas to attend a specialists’ forum to discuss allowing raptors to capture rats in rural areas — hopefully a way to achieve both aims of raptor conservation and rat extermination.
Additional reporting by staff writer