Paris rubbish collectors have released a video to sound the alarm over a plague of rats that have invaded the banks of the Seine, claiming that the rodents now pose a physical threat to dustmen.
Shot last month between the tourist landmark of the Musée d’Orsay and the Pont Royal, the film shows a huge group of the large vermin desperately trying to escape from a deep plastic municipal rubbish bin.
The dustman who shot the film, known only as David, can be heard shouting: “Look in the bin, there are a million rats!”
He said colleagues were so overwhelmed, they simply shut the bin and “crushed” all the rats in their garbage truck.
The “horror” scene was, according to the municipal collector, far from a one-off.
“For the past year, we’ve seen a proliferation of rats in all the arrondissements on the banks of the Seine,” the dustman told Le Parisien, the French capital’s daily newspaper. He said the situation was no longer tenable “both for Parisians and tourists who come to visit the most beautiful city in the world”.
The rats are becoming increasingly emboldened and are highly aggressive, he added. “One colleague told me that a rat jumped at his throat and another at his arm,” he told the paper. “To my knowledge, there have been no bites for now but we don’t want to wait until drama strikes.”
The dustmen are calling on Paris town hall to “take measures to eradicate the problem” and on restaurant owners in the area to take better care of their rubbish, which is providing the rodents with an easy source of food.
The rat infestation first came to public attention late 2016 amid an outcry from Parisians that they could no longer frequent several city parks due to the numbers of rodents.
Paris town hall reacted by officially waging war on the pests, closing off a string of parks and gardens and laying a host of “environmentally friendly” traps and poisons as well as blocking off sewer entrances.
Last September, it pumped €1.5 million into keeping the pests under control. But the measures have been apparently had little impact. Experts estimate that there up to two rats per inhabitant in Paris, whose inner city has a population of 2.2 million.
Mao Peninou, deputy mayor in charge of city cleanliness, said it was aware of the fact that “rats can increasingly be seen in public areas”. “All units concerned are tackling the problem head on,” she said.
One of the issues has been the recent flooding of the river Seine, which is currently at its highest level in a decade. “For the past year or two we have seen a displacement of rats towards the surface,” said vermin specialist Stephane Bras.
Another is that half of Parisian rats are immune to poison, according to a recent study, which also found that there rodents carried more parasites than previously thought – up to 16 including seven that are potentially dangerous to man.
Not everyone is against the rat presence. Last September, some 25,000 people signed a petition to stop the “genocide” of the rodents.
Josette Benchetrit, a clinical psychologist who launched the petition, said: “Rat phobia is an unwarranted social phobia, like spider phobia. Give a rat a beautiful bushy tail and you’ve got a squirrel — an animal we love. These poor unfortunates are being mercilessly killed because they’ve been designated by society as scapegoats to be eradicated.”
But many are fed up with seeing rats on the streets and say the “deratisation” campaign appears to have had little impact. Some blame EU regulations restricting the use of poison.
New rules ban the sprinkling of anticoagulant pellets to avoid contaminating pets, water supplies or people.
Instead, poison must be placed in small plastic boxes, which pest control workers say is less effective
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