File photograph. / SUR

Spanish pest control association warns of black rat population boom

The rodents nest in trees and can transmit serious diseases. Spain’s National Association of Environmental Health Companies has called on the public to stop feeding pigeons and cats on the street to try and control the problem


The black rat population has boomed noticibly in the last two years in Spain, mainly in the large cities, the National Association of Environmental Health Companies (Anecpla) announced on Thursday, 18 November, after meeting to address the evolution and management of the pest.

Capable of transmitting serious diseases such as leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis and hantavirus, among many others, the black rat population is spreading rapidly in some Spanish cities. Madrid is a case in point: the dozen outbreaks detected and controlled in 2019, has jumped to 35 cases in 2021.

This was recognised by Jose María Cámara, of the health authority in Madrid who said that “in order to control the situation, rapid action is essential from the first detection of black rats. In addition to collaboration between all the authorities involved, establishing a dialogue with the public and park and garden workers, etc. is important.”

Nests in trees

The black rat is found mainly in parks and gardens, but doesn't access sewage systems. They usually make nests in trees, which are difficult to distinguish from those of birds.

"Herein lies the main challenge of this species", said the president of Anecpla, Sergio Monge. “Until now, both the environmental health companies and the town hall prevention plans focussed on the sewer rats, whose eradication is carried out inside the sewer itself. However, with the black rat we find ourselves with a specimen that moves in gardens and green areas, near schools and playgrounds, where people and domestic animals gather, which greatly complicates its management.”

The association has also called on the public to avoid feeding pigeons, cats, etc. on public roads because, as Jorge Galván, general director of Anecpla, points out, "food remains left on the street will undoubtedly attract black rats as well, encouraging their spread and reproduction."