Tiong Bahru rats living large in Singapore’s circuit-breaker period

Rats spotted in Tiong Bahru.
Rats spotted in Tiong Bahru.

With fewer humans out during the ongoing “circuit breaker” partial lockdown of Singapore, another species is looking to fill the void.

Emboldened rats have been spotted in the Tiong Bahru neighborhood, with residents reporting increased sightings of the vermin scurrying about in the open.

It has become a hot topic among residents in a private Facebook group of nearly 3,000 people in recent weeks. Videos sent to Coconuts Singapore showed rats scurrying about along alleyways; in one, a pair of what look like shrews tear at each other in a frantic melee. 

A number of residents, most of whom live in the neighborhood’s pre-war housing blocks, confirmed increased rat sightings. Other than on Tiong Poh, they have been spotted along Yong Siak, Eng Hoon and Eng Watt streets, as well as near the Tiong Bahru Community Center. 

The Tanjong Pagar Town Council said it hasn’t heard any significant reports from residents on the issue, noting in a message that a single rat sighting in a back alley was “not an uncommon sight in any estate.”

Still, what were once rare sightings have become daily, and the rats appear to be using drainage culverts to travel the neighborhood before popping up to nibble at rubbish. 

Improper disposal of that rubbish could be a factor, but it was difficult to get any of the quiet neighborhood’s residents to rat one another out to a reporter.

“A lot of people don’t like to lift up the rubbish bin cover” and just leave their garbage on the ground, said one neighbor who asked that he not be named for fear of antagonizing the town council.

While the rats have scurried into the topic threads in a private Tiong Bahru Facebook group, complaints about waste disposal burst into the open on a public page trafficking in neighborhood matters.

“With less human presence, these rodents are increasingly emboldened to venture out. Maybe there are fewer scraps from the F&B establishments these days,” the post by a page admin read.

“And those food waste left out in the open by careless or lazy neighbours becomes easy fodder for these vermins. You can see a few large rats scurrying around in the back lanes with increasing frequency of late. So let’s do our part. Put the trash INTO the bin,” it added. 

The post received a lot of finger-pointing replies, including reports of cockroaches “like something from a horror film.”

The Tiong Bahru neighborhood is split between public housing blocks and pre-war housing blocks. The latter is no stranger to a sizable rat population.

Since the problem made headlines in 2013, it was thought to have been brought under control. At the time, the issue was mainly attributed to irresponsible rubbish disposal, open drains, and additional food establishments. 

Editor’s Note: It has come to our attention that the animals fighting in the beginning of the video are most likely Asian House Shrews. We have updated the story accordingly.

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