EU to blame for Paris' rodent infestation?

PARIS • Paris is facing its worst rat crisis in decades. Nine parks and green spaces have been closed either partly or entirely.

Some, like the Champs de Mars, home to the Eiffel Tower, are being "deratisised" in sections.

But some rat-infested places cannot be completely closed, like the shrub-filled Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, which runs through a neighbourhood with little green space and is beloved by mothers with strollers as well as joggers - but also, it seems, by clans of rats.

Rat invasion is an old problem in Paris and it is hard to get a grip on. In 2014, the city promised 100 per cent eradication of the rodents .

So why are they proliferating? Could it be everybody's favourite scapegoat - the European Union and its faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats? Yes, it could.

New regulations from Brussels, the EU's headquarters, have forced countries to change how they use rat poison, said Dr Jean-Michel Michaux, a veterinarian and head of the Urban Animals Scientific and Technical Institute in Paris.

The old method could easily contaminate the water supply, and the poison could be ingested by domestic animals or people, with the greatest risk being to children and pregnant women, Dr Michaux said.

Now, the EU requires that the poison be secured in small black plastic boxes, known as bait stations, and the rats have to actively seek it out.

Three park workers tasked with checking the poison boxes scattered every 25 feet (7m) among the shrubbery at the Tour St Jacques did not find even one breached by a rat on Dec 9.

But Mr Patrick Lambin, 43, a city worker in the Square St Jacques, gleefully seized a dead rat with a pincer-like implement used for picking up trash that morning and swung it around.

"That's the fourth one I've gotten," he said.

Over how many days? He shrugged, "Since we began."

That was between two and three weeks ago.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 18, 2016, with the headline 'EU to blame for Paris' rodent infestation?'. Print Edition | Subscribe