Bukit Batok temple's rat problem under control

April 1: Herbs and fruit trees behind the temple were inadvertently providing food sources for the rats, while the indiscriminate feeding of stray dogs exacerbated the problem.
April 1: Herbs and fruit trees behind the temple were inadvertently providing food sources for the rats, while the indiscriminate feeding of stray dogs exacerbated the problem.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
April 8: The vegetation around the temple has been cleared. The HDB is also working with the temple operator to remove unauthorised altars outside the temple.
April 8: The vegetation around the temple has been cleared. The HDB is also working with the temple operator to remove unauthorised altars outside the temple.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

NEA, HDB say food sources from unattended altar offerings, animal feed caused infestation

The rat problem plaguing a Chinese temple in Bukit Batok is now under control, thanks to an extensive rodent-busting operation.

"We caught one rat in the temple on Monday, but haven't caught any since," a 73-year-old temple volunteer who gave her name only as Ms Sim, told The Straits Times last Thursday.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Housing Board (HDB) said they had stepped up pest control works after rat activity was reported around the See Thian Foh Combined Temple in Bukit Batok Street 23 late last month.

They found 20 burrows along a nearby footpath .

The situation in the area has been "brought under control since April 4, within five days of the rat control works", HDB and NEA said in a joint statement to The Straits Times (ST) on Friday. "Rat activity has continued to decline as a result of our daily rat control works."

During its investigation, NEA identified food sources as the primary cause for the infestation. Unattended offerings were found on unauthorised altars behind the temple, and in the forested area on state land adjacent to the temple.

Rats were also seen going into the temple for food.

The indiscriminate feeding of stray dogs added to the problem, NEA and HDB said.

The root cause of the infestation has to be dealt with to prevent the problem from recurring, they said.

HDB is working with the temple operator to move two unauthorised altars into the temple to minimise food offerings being left unattended outside. They have also cleared vegetation around the temple, especially fruit trees - another potential food source for the rats.

"We would like to remind everyone not to leave food unattended in the open, or leave food for stray animals as this will lead to rat activity near the food sources," they added.

When ST visited the site last Thursday, most of the rat-catching equipment had been removed. Only some poison and glue was left in the forested area.

And while Ms Sim cheered the end of the rodent menace, the clearing of herbs from an area the size of a basketball court was painful.

"Of course it was difficult to see our plants cleared," she said. "We have been growing some for over 10 years."

But she added: "Overall, the response to the situation has been quick and effective."

At the end of 2014, a three-week effort was required to exterminate more than 230 rats from a hill next to Bukit Batok MRT station.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'Bukit Batok temple's rat problem under control'. Print Edition | Subscribe