Can humans and rats live together? Paris is trying to find out

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Can humans and rats live together?

That’s what city leaders in Paris are trying to find out. The French capital, like many metropolises, has a notorious rodent problem.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is forming a committee to study “cohabitation” – to what extent humans and rodents can live together – one of her deputies said Thursday during a city council meeting.

Anne Souyris, Paris’ deputy mayor in charge of public health, announced the move in response to questions from Geoffroy Boulard, the head of Paris’ 17th arrondissement and a member of the center-right Republican party.

Boulard had called upon the city government to outline a more ambitious plan against the proliferation of rats in public spaces.

He has previously criticized Hidalgo, a member of the center-left socialist party, for not doing enough to eliminate rats from Paris, including during strikes earlier this year which saw garbage pile up across the city.

“The presence of rats on the surface is harmful to the quality of life of Parisians,” Boulard said.

Boulard said he was raising his question after coming across an ongoing study, Project Armageddon. The project’s mission is aiding the city in managing its rat population and among its objectives is fighting prejudices against rats to help Parisians better live with them.

The study is being financed by the French government, though the city of Paris is a partner in the project.

Souyris explained that what was being studied was to what extent humans and rats can live together in a way that is “the most efficient and at the same time ensure that it’s not unbearable for Parisians.”

While rats can spread disease, the deputy mayor said that the rats being discussed were not the same black rats that can carry plague, but other types of rats that carry diseases like leptospirosis, a bacterial disease. Souyris also highlighted some of the actions taken by the city as part of its 2017 anti-rat plan, including investing in thousands of new garbage cans to “make the rats go back underground.”

Souyris later said on Twitter that Paris’ rats do not pose a “significant” public health risk. She added that she was asking the French High Council on Public Health to weigh in on the debate.

“We need scientific advice, not political press releases,” she said.

Animal rights group Paris Animaux Zoopolis welcomed the city’s move.

“Rats are present in Paris, as in all major French cities, so the question of cohabitation necessarily arises,” a statement from the group said.

“At PAZ, when we talk about “peaceful cohabitation” with rats, we don’t mean living with them in our houses and apartments, but making sure that these animals don’t suffer AND that we’re not disturbed. Again, a very reasonable objective!”

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