New York City is notorious for its rats. They can be observed in homes, the subways and the streets and could practically outnumber the human population - by some estimates. Given their propensity to reproduce, they are omnipresent.
Now, NYC authorities appear to actually be doing something about it, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. The Metropolitan Transport Authority has contracted with Arizona-based company SenesTech, which is behind ContraPest, which, when given to rats, causes infertility. The program is in pilot stage and hasn't yet been fully adapted.
SenesTech is studying rat behavior in New York 's subways to figure out which foods the rodents prefer to eat, so that the ContraPest bait can be up their palate.
"Here in New York, rats have such a buffet available to them," SenesTech CEO Loretta Mayer told BusinessWeek. "But they don't necessarily get a lot of liquid, which is why we'll be offering them ... a semi-solid covered in kind of a cheese wax and also liquid from a bottle feeder - They'll have a bite to eat and a glass of wine, you know?"
In the past, NYC's authorities have tried poison gas and a hunting spree to combat the rats. By and large, the campaigns weren't too effective. The latest is MTA's first try to cut off the rodents from reproducing instead of trying to kill them.
Is the ContraPest going to poison humans? According to Mayer, the answer is no.
Apparently, ContraPest is made up of mostly salt, sugar, fat, and two active ingredients, an industrial chemical and and an herb. The product will be placed inside bait boxes outfitted to monitor rat traffic. The boxes will be set up in locked subway platform trash rooms, where garbage is kept until trash trains take it away.
The overall goal is to reduce the current population by as much as 75 percent. Once the target numbers are achieved, SenesTech will remove the bait from its boxes.
SenesTech was founded in 2002 and has programs running in Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand, mostly in agricultural areas to keep rodents from devastating crops such as wheat and rice. The New York City rat problem is going to be quite a different task - one welcome by locals and tourists alike.