Owls to be used to rid homes of rats

| Mary-Anne Gontsana
Philippi residents in the informal settlement say they are being terrorised by rats. Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana.

Philippi residents say there is just no getting rid of the rats terrorising them in their homes. But the City of Cape Town has a plan to introduce owls to solve the problem.

Residents in the informal settlement area say poison provided by the City has been useless; the rats simply eat it as food and it doesn’t kill them.

Last year, a local newspaper reported that Nomfundo Nkathazo’s 11-month-old baby was attacked and bitten by rats in their Philippi home.

Nosipho Holwa, who has been living in Philippi for two years, says every night she hears the rats as they enter her shack.

“I hear them scratching my zinc, trying to find a way to get in. I have already had my door, furniture and plastic containers eaten by them … They destroy everything in the house. We have tried poison, but it doesn’t work, it only kills the mice, not the rats,” she says.

Mayoral committee member for health Benedicta van Minnen said the City was aware of the problem in Philippi and parts of the township had been baited to catch the rodents.

“There is a lot of waste dumping in Philippi and many of the residents have houses situated next to these dumping sites. Rats are attracted to rubbish and dumping,” she said.

Van Minnen said the City has realised that the poison used in the baiting is not effective; rats have to consume it more than once before it kills. She said the City was now considering using owls. It has been tried in Johannesburg, but it was still being discussed in Cape Town. There was concern that the poison used for baiting the rats would be harmful to the owls.

A Philippi resident, Thembisa, said, “It’s the first time I hear of owls being used to catch and kill rats. We are living in fear here because the rats bite and these ones are big and they are not scared of us. They can be seen any time of the day and night; they are terrorising us and they come in different colours — black, grey, brown, even white”.

Khayelitsha also has a rat problem, According to the City’s website, 17,685 block-baiting stations have been serviced in Khayelitsha since July 2012.

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