By Rebecca Musgrave
Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria, will open a new rat house on Sunday. A variety of the creatures will be on display at the zoo, hoping to improve their image as merely pests and unhygienic rodents.
Visitors will be able to meet Rolf Rüdiger, the most famous rat in Austria and organiser and ambassador of the new rat house, Robert Steiner, who has high hopes of changing attitudes.
Throughout the world there are over 60 species of rats. Three of these have recently found a new home in Schönbrunn Zoo. The Giant Hamster Rat, a creature native to the Savannah in Africa, can detect landmines due to their strong sense of smell and can even identify tuberculosis by scent.
Another rat who has taken up residence in the zoo is the Northern Luzon Giant Cloud Rat. The distinctive black and white animals originate from the Philippines. The “fancy rat” or common rat which is, according to Zoo Director Dagmar Schratter, “recommended as a pet for children,” will make an appearance.
Sophisticated light techniques have to be used in the rat house as the animals are normally nocturnal. The artificial lights create both twilight and a moonlight under which visitors can observe the rats.
The house opens to the public on Sunday (6 November) from 11am until 3pm and will include a children’s party with Robert Steiner and Rolf Rüdiger. There will also be face painting, crafts and games in the Orangery.
For more information visit: http://www.zoovienna.at/