6 APRIL 2016




The alarming discovery of bubonic plague antibodies in a rat carcass that was recovered in Thembisa calls for intensive and well-coordinated rodent management in urban areas. Rats and fleas that live on rats carry the Yersinia pestis micro-organism that causes bubonic plague. If people are bitten by rats and fleas that carry the Yersinia pestis micro-organism, they will be infected by the disease. Bubonic plague may become epidemic if infected carriers (rats and fleas) are not effectively controlled. The dire situation with poor waste management and virtually no rodent management in urban areas result in epidemic rodent populations that may, if left uncontrolled, develop into conditions conducive to bubonic plague outbreak.


South Africans need to take control of rodent management in their own premises with due consideration of the natural environment as well as human health and safety. Registered rodenticides are available in South Africa to effectively control rats. CropLife South Africa advises citizens to be very careful when applying rodenticides in order to prevent the poisoning of domestic dogs, owls and children. The following safety measures should be implemented when applying rodenticides:


  1. Use only registered rodenticides – registration is evident in a registration number starting with capital L followed by four numeric digits and Act No. 36 of 1947 on the label and container of the rodenticide.
  2. Always apply rodenticides in bait stations. Bait stations are available at retail outlets.
  3. A safe place indoors to apply rodenticides out of harm’s way is in the ceiling.
  4. Ensure that children and dogs do not gain access to rodenticides as ingestion of it may be fatal.
  5. Collect dead rats from the fourth day after initial application of rodenticides. Use rubber gloves when collecting carcasses. Seal carcasses in plastic bags and dispose of it in the refuse bins.
  6. Do not allow dogs to eat dead rats even if rodenticides were not used.
  7. Baiting needs to maintained for at least sixteen days to exterminate rat populations.
  8. Do not use aldicarb (Two Step) to kill rodents – it is illegal, ineffective and pose a very serious poisoning risk to children and dogs.
  9. Do not use cement or plaster of Paris mixed with maize meal as bait as it is ineffective. It causes discomfort when rats eat it and they emit alarm signals that negate the baiting process.


Rodenticide are only one tool in rodent management. Maintaining sanitation of premises is essential:


  1. Do not allow rubble and refuse to collect on the premises.
  2. Do not leave pet food unattended outside. Feed pets at particular times and offer just enough food to satisfy their needs.
  3. If garden birds are treated with bird seed and other food, offer small amounts in the morning to avoid any food being left over.
  4. Seal rat burrows with heavy soils or cement if they burrow under buildings.


Certain rodenticides are less prone to causing secondary poisoning to owls. Send an sms to 082-446-8946 requesting information on such products or for any other queries about rodent management. It is very important to protect urban owls against primary and secondary poisoning hence a call for selective use of rodenticides.




Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, CropLife South Africa at 082-446-8946.