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Thursday 18 September 2014

Cash-strapped New Zealand students killing rats in exchange for beer

Published 22/04/2014 | 20:03

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University students in New Zealand are bringing in dead rats to the local university bar in exchange for beer.

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The University of Wellington Science Society Department is running a scheme allowing students the option to kill rats - and in return providing them with free alcohol.

The university provides the traps to students to help them catch the rats. Once caught, the student can head into the campus pub, The Hunters Lounge and exchange the dead rat for a beer voucher.

The killing of rats was initiated by the Science Society as the rats have become a huge problem and are affecting New Zealand's indigenous wildlife. They are eating lizards and are even climbing trees to eat birds' eggs.

They also have a competitive edge over insects such as the Weta, a native New Zealand insect which is finding it very difficult to forage for food with the rats for company.

In an interview with Vice magazine, Jonathan Musther, one of the founders of the trap campaign said: “Not only are rats directly predating our species, they are also competing with them.”

The Department of Conservation in New Zealand has a good trapping system established in parks and reserves but unfortunately they are unable to start laying traps in the backyards of local residents, so the Science Society decided to involve students. They've have now set up a Facebook page called Beer Trap, which communicates the need to help keep Wellington rat-free.

“We decided to get students from the Victoria University Science Society involved in running Beer Trap. The best way to incentivise them would be to get them a free drink. They are students after all,” said Musther.

The scheme is not just focused on the killing of rats; hedgehogs also face being trapped, as the Department of Conservation has recently discovered the potential danger that they also pose. Studies in the South Island of New Zealand have recently demonstrated that hedgehogs are responsible for one in five attacks on low-lying birds' nests.

“We’re only just beginning to realise how evil they are,” a spokesman said.

As a result the scheme has faced some opposition from local campaign groups - as well as fears that it could increase alcohol consumption amongst students.

“We’ve now been dubbed 'remorseless hedgehog killers',” said Musther.

As for concerns about the incentive of alcohol being offered to students. Musther said,:“I don’t think it’s an issue because I don’t think anyone’s going to catch that many rats. No one’s going to catch ten rats and go to the Hunter Lounge and get sloshed.”

Independent News Service

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