If you felt stressed out by the toilet paper and pasta hoarding that went on during the first few weeks of the shutdown, spare a thought for Sydney’s rats, who have been dealing with a similar shortage of essentials in a particularly gut-churning way. Due to the lack of food waste from restaurants and bars in the CBD, Sydney’s rat population is beginning to migrate to the suburbs. And these aren’t just any ol’ rats, oh no. These are unusually aggressive, cannibalistic rats.
Driven by the scarcity of food, instances of rat infestations in the city’s surrounding suburbs have sharply increased in recent weeks, according to Geoff Milton, a seasoned Sydney rat-catcher interviewed by The Guardian. There is usually a seasonal increase in domestic pest problems every winter, as rats seek out warm, dry conditions. However, this year, the sudden loss of restaurant scraps and general daily food waste from the whitecollar workforce has forced Sydney’s rat population into a suburban exodus, estimated to be around 30 per cent greater than normal.
Even more horrifyingly, the half-starved rodents have taken to dining on each other, especially their young or just-born offspring, as a stop-gap solution to the lack of available food. A similar phenomenon has been seen in New York, where the Centre for Disease Control recently issued warnings to the public to be on the lookout for rats exhibiting “unusual or aggressive” behaviour.
Urban rat populations are almost entirely dependent on human food waste for survival; however the sudden closure of venues in mid-March totally destabilised the usual food chain. The good news is that this disturbing new behaviour isn’t likely to last. Restrictions on restaurants have already been eased, with yet more rules set to be relaxed from June 1, which should restore the opportunistic food sources Sydney’s rats are accustomed to.