Monday, November 24, 2008


More disturbing news from the Animal Kingdom.

TOFO, Mozambique, Aug. 3 (UPI) — A few enterprising Mozambicans say they might be able to turn their rabbit-sized, land-mine sniffing African rats into a tourist-attracting oddity.

The rat handlers let their rodents poke around at the end of thin leashes until they scratch at the ground. That’s the sign they’ve discovered an explosive device, The Georgia Straight reported in its travel section July 31.
I don’t know what disturbs me most about it all. Is this really the best that enterprising Mozambicans can do? Training rabbit-sized, mine-sniffing rats on leashes? Is this truly the dream of the Junior Achievers and 4H’ers of Twenty-First Century Africa?

That there are people known to the UPI as “rat handlers” piques the curiosity though. Are there rat groomers? Rat farmers? Maybe scientifically-formulated rat food in eight enticing flavors? Perhaps I underestimated the grandness of the entrepreneurial spirit here, but I can’t imagine that rat husbandry, supplies and accessories (exercise wheels? rhinestone leashes?) do much to sustain the nation’s economy

And the tourists! No more giant sea turtles? No white sand beaches? Have the safaris become tiresome? Is it no longer enough to take snapshots of the “colorful locals”, post them on your blog and then and show them off at the happy hour back at the Marriott? It strikes me as déclassé to travel halfway around the world to see a “tourist –attracting oddity” that is in fact just a bunch of rodents on ropes.

Of course they are cheaper than dogs and certainly require less security and general fussing and fawning over than royalty or even celebrities. So there is probably virtue in that. Although I just might travel halfway around the world to watch a tethered Paula Abdul and Matt Lauer tiptoe through a minefield.

Where are the PETA people on this anyway? Is a rodent really more expendable that a right whale? Or a princess?

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