Bukit Batok residents, shopkeepers say rats run rings around them

There is a war in Bukit Batok Avenue 8 between residents and rats.

These are no tunnel rats.

They are in your face and they have invaded HDB flats, with some even breaching the defences put up by families and shopkeepers.

The wily rodents have repeatedly outwitted humans and made their presence felt not just in dark alleys but in well-lit corridors and other areas as well.

Residents and shopkeepers are unsure how they are going to keep the rats out for good. Some have fortified their homes and shops. Others have built fences and set traps.

And there are those who have placed potted plants over fist-sized holes in grass patches surrounding Blocks 165, 166 and 167.

A first-storey resident of Block 165, who gave her name only as Madam Devi, 62, told The New Paper: "There have been more of them rats since November 2014. Sometimes, I see them in the day.

"From my window, I always hear their squeaks when they fight at night."

BOARD

Madam Devi, who has lived there since 1984, said she occasionally replaces the acrylic board on the rear gate of her flat.

She had previously installed a board from inside her flat, but it did not stop a rat from entering.

Now, she secures the board from outside so that rats cannot nudge the board or climb the gate.

Her neighbour has also left a rat trap outside her flat.

Madam Devi said that over the years, she has seen pest controllers covering rat burrows behind her flat.

But the rats appear bolder now.

Ms Yvonne Ng, an incense shop retailer at Block 166, found that out for herself a few days before Chinese New Year.

She had been sitting at her desk in the shop and fiddling with her mobile phone when she noticed something near her legs.

"I didn't notice the rat until it passed between my feet," Ms Ng, 26, said.

"I jumped up from my seat and screamed. It ran into the shop and later escaped into a drain at the front of the shop."

She immediately borrowed a rat trap from a friend and placed it below some shelves in the shop. As bait, she used a piece of "huat kueh", or what is known as a prayer cake.

But she has had no luck so far.

When TNP visited the estate two weekends ago, we noticed eyes peering at us from an open rubbish chute.

For the next three nights, the rats seemed oblivious to our presence as they scuttled between cracks and gaps leading to the back doors of the shops in the estate.

The 15 or so heavily-scarred rats were observed to be frequently entering a unit formerly occupied by the Giant supermarket chain at Block 166.

A 5cm-wide gap in the rear shutter door allowed the rats easy access to leftover fruits in a red plastic bag inside the unit. The rodents also left hundreds of their droppings inside the unit, judging by the photos that were taken.

Ms Jane Lee, an ERA Real Estate senior marketing director who oversees the rental unit at Block 166, said it had been vacated about two months ago. While she was unaware of the rats' presence, she said a clean-up crew had visited the premises last Monday.

The estate falls under Jurong Town Council's jurisdiction.

Mr Ng Wee Teck, a property manager for the estate, told TNP: "On and off, in the last two weeks, we've received feedback on the rats (in the estate). But it's not a serious infestation."

Mr Ng said that if there are rat sightings, the town council will send its officers to investigate.

He added: "In such situations, we advise residents to maintain proper housekeeping and not leave food sources exposed."

One man was upset after a rat "visited" his father's corridor on the third storey of Block 166 on the night of Feb 21.

Mr Max Ho, 35, said: "My father doesn't live above a coffee shop or near a rubbish collection point. So how do you explain rats coming up to the upper units? Something has to be done."

PAST INFESTATION IN BUKIT BATOK

The last time a major rat infestation was reported in Bukit Batok was late last year.

It involved the elimination of a rat enclave on a slope next to Bukit Batok MRT station.

The Straits Times reported on Dec 24 that about 200 rats had been killed by pest controllers.

The rats had thrived because of food left by stray dog lovers. This was verified by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

It told The Straits Times that from January to November, about 100 complaints had been lodged regarding stray dogs and people feeding them at Bukit Batok Central and its vicinity.

"While the feeding of stray animals is well intended, it becomes an offence when it causes littering of the environment," an AVA spokesman told The Straits Times.

In 2011, the National Environment Agency started a programme to monitor the rodent population in Singapore.

The agency discovered that in October and November last year, there were about 10,000 rat burrows across the island, an increase from 6,400 in the same period in 2013.

Some of the reasons given for the rise in numbers include food not being disposed of properly and construction activities that may have displaced rats from their nests.

This article was first published on March 2, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.