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    Apr 11, 2016

    Rats! They have become smarter

    THE rats have evolved but the humans have not, it seems. And that is why the wily rodents plaguing homes and businesses here show no signs of being suppressed but pest busters are not complaining.

    "Rodents are very intelligent, very adaptable. They learn to avoid traps, which poses a huge problem," said director of Origin Exterminators Deanne Ong.

    "Unfortunately, many companies are using techniques from the 1990s."

    Exterminators here said common industry practices for rodent management - such as using cages and glue boards to catch rats - have not caught up with evolving rodent behaviour.

    Using data to study rats' movements and their colonies is the way forward, rather than taking a wait-and-see approach which can be labour-driven.

    "Using same old trap methods will not work on such an intelligent pest. Pest managers and building owners should look at gathering real-time data using sensors that then dictates how traps are placed," said Mrs Ong.

    "It should be a long-term effort, not project-based approach that building managers are currently taking."

    In addition, those who hire exterminators also tend to deal with the problem after it surfaces, rather than preventing it from the outset through good hygiene practices, for example.

    Mrs Ong said: "When they have an infestation and are under pressure to take action from complaints from users, this shows a reactive mindset to the problem.

    "This is unfortunately still the industry norm," she added.

    The result: The National Environment Agency recorded 68 per cent more rat-related complaints last year, up from around 4,000 in 2014.

    Horror stories have come thick and fast.

    Last month, rats re-emerged in Bukit Batok, a year after extensive efforts to wipe them out.

    Over at Punggol's Waterway Point shopping centre, a diner complained that a rat had fallen from the ceiling above her while she was waiting for her meal on March 23.

    It is understood that 56 rats were caught at a Chinese restaurant in Orchard Road between January and February this year.

    Said PestBusters founder Thomas Fernandez: "Rats are really prevalent everywhere.

    "All the shopping centres in Singapore, they have a huge problem."

    Mr Fernandez's firm received 1,563 inquiries last year - 55 per cent more than in 2014.

    For pest control company Rentokil Initial Singapore, sales from rodent infestation increased 18 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.

    While rat infestations are not easy to stamp out, good sanitation is a critical part of the equation, said Junie Yeo, the company's marketing director.

    New buildings can also adopt a rodent-proof design, she added, noting that a 1-cm aperture is all that a rat needs to squeeze into a space.

    To get to the root of the problem, pest control companies advise owners to run a thorough "pest check" on a new building before handing it over to tenants.

    This includes checking false ceilings, electrical risers and pipings, which are used by rodents to get around.

    Added Mr Fernandez: "It is a whole ecosystem because it is all integrated.

    "Everybody has a role to play."