KNYSNA NEWS - Knysna has a rat problem. No, not the adorable kind you're accustomed to seeing in the Ratatouille movie, but rather the Robbie Wessels' Liewe Ouers kind.
While bustling, urban centres in big cities have become synonymous with rats and every other filthy critter and creature, they've never exactly been synonymous with what is supposed to be touristy centres in small coastal towns.
That is, until now, according to management of the shopping centre adjacent to the Knysna Taxi Rank in the middle of town.
Michael Georgiou, manager of the centre, has noted a sharp rise in the number of rats running around, not only in Knysna's central business district, but towards the suburbs too. "These rats are becoming a problem, and not even a problem, but rather a plague," a disgusted Georgiou said. "We as management of the centre have found ourselves spending increasingly more on rat poison to the extent that, in the last few months to a year, we have spent more than we did in the previous 10 years or something."
The statement by Georgiou is in part supported by Godwin May, assistant branch manager at the Tuinroete Agri Bpk store in Knysna. He says they have seen an increase in rat poison sales. "We've had people come from all over Knysna looking to purchase rat poison, so much so that we have had to increase our supply in order to meet the new demand," May said. He also noted that the marked increase has not come over the past year or so, but rather since January this year. "It's something that sort of just grew out of proportion since January, we've had people cleaning out our shelves."
The ongoing "rat plague" in Knysna is of great concern to Georgiou, partly due to the impact it could have on the business owners in and around the centre. According to entrepreneur and business owner "Weezy" (he did not wish to be named otherwise), the rats are out of control, in particular once shops close their doors. "During the day it sort of goes unnoticed, but once it gets less busy around 17:00, then the rats come out to play," he said. "And these things aren't small. They are big, about as big as a dassie or a small cat."
Keith, who operates his business outside the centre, says the rats are causing problems for him and his produce. "As vendors, we have to store our products on site, and the rats have eaten through it in the past," he said. "We lose a lot of money because of these things," Keith said. A business owner in the centre, Shabbir Malik, attributed the low customer numbers at stores in the centre to the rats, because it "scares people off".
According to local waste management expert Debbie Davies, the rat issue in the town centre can be blamed largely on problems at the waste recycling station on Waterfront Drive.
"While there are other issues that cause it, the biggest problem I would say would be the prolonged periods of time that waste sits at the centre before it is processed and sent off to the landfill site in Mossel Bay."
Knysna Municipality says "the local authority is responsible for vacant and open spaces including public amenities such as the taxi rank", and states that the rank as well as the area surrounding it have been identified as one of 10 hot spots with regard to the rat issue in Knysna, and that they clean the area on a daily basis. According to municipal communications manager Christopher Bezuidenhout, they have enlisted the services of a pest control company to deal with the problem.
Garden Route National Park Knysna section manager Megan Taplin negated the notion that the rat problem is linked to a snake die-off in the 2017 fires. "There's no link between these two, and the rat problem is more than likely caused by the quantity of food waste in the town coupled with the recent high temperatures," Taplin said. She also further urged residents to not poison the rats, but rather capture them and give to places like Radical Raptors for food, or to build owl houses to bring owls in to kill the rats.
One way or another, whether you're a business owner or a consumer in town, no town wants a rat plague on their hands while trying to continuously market themselves as a tourist destination.
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