Snipers have been deployed in Tehran to combat a plague of “mutant” rats that are increasingly resistant to poison and have grown so big that cats are scared of them. Ten teams of sharpshooters armed with rifles equipped with infra-red sights have bagged more than 2,000 of the creatures in recent weeks.
That’s a drop in the ocean: Iran’s rat population easily outnumbers the sprawling capital’s 12 million inhabitants. The city council, under the direction of mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, is now boosting the number of sniper squads to 40.
“It’s become a 24/7 war,” a grim-faced Mohammad Hadi Heydarzadeh, the head of Tehran municipality’s environmental agency, declared on state television. “We use chemical poisons to kill the rats during the day and the snipers at night.
Tehran city authorities exterminate nearly one million rats a year, but the rats are proving to be natural-born survivors.
“They seem to have had a genetic mutation,” Ismail Kahram, an environmental adviser to the city council, said. “They are bigger now and look different. These are changes that normally take millions of years of evolution,” he told the website Qudsonline.ir.
He said cats are now smaller than some of Tehran’s rats which can weigh up to 11lbs.
The problem gets worse with the onset of warmer weather, when the snows on the nearby Alborz mountains begin to melt, raising water levels and flushing rats out of their subterranean lairs.