Friday 24 May, 2019

The ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of a rat’s life, as demonstrated at Denbigh

From a distance, it appeared to be a cage with the lovingly adorable rabbits or guinea pigs that Jamaicans have come to so admire over the years.

But on closer examination, the exhibition item at the Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Division of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries at the Denbigh agricultural Show in Clarendon, was found to contain some pretty huge rats of varying colours.

With food and controlled water supply for both consumption and to take a bath of sorts on the steamingly hot day, the rats were obviously in paradise.

And to add shock to the awe of the exhibit, Charles Dawkins, a food storage inspector with the division, smilingly explained that the rodents are actually temporarily reared for testing purposes, hence their special treatment on ‘death row’.

Dawkins said the division, which falls within the commerce portfolio of the ministry, routinely provides rodents for testing, like for students at the universities.

“We also have a rodent lab, where we can do the testing and analysis for various interests. We can, for example, test the effectiveness of rodenticides,” Dawkins outlined.

“To always have rodents for use (testing),  we always have to have some in stock, and we even capture some wild ones when necessary,” he elaborated.

Of course, there is a huge difference between wild rats and the seemingly domesticated ones which were on display at Denbigh. They did not flinch, irrespective of how close humans came to them, and the display personnel said if the cage was even opened, it was hardly likely that the rodents inside would run away, having gotten used tto the attendant ‘creature comforts’ inside.

Dawkins, in fact, reminded that persons in the developed world have gone to the point of having rats as domestic pets, but said that “has not been the case so far in Jamaica”.

It was made clear that no testing was done to determine what diseases the rats in custody were conveying.

The deal, said Dawkins, was very good treatment for each captive rodent until his or her time for testing. With the test being successfully conducted, it is simply time for other ‘house guests’.


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