Rats do not have a very good reputation in our society. Most people feel grossed out from the mere sight of them while some feel an impulse to chase any rat they see with a broom.
But what if rats were being deliberately bred in a lab-like setting? That is exactly what's happening in Chattogram.
At the Mice Breeding Point of the Venom Research Centre in Chattogram Medical College, some 2,000 Swiss Albino mice are being produced every month.
The white rat or Albino rat is a breed completely lacking melanin which is responsible for their snowy white fur. The rats with pink eyes are a popular choice as pets among animal lovers. The mice are also widely used in laboratories and for toxicology studies.
However, the rats of the Venom Research Centre are mainly used as snake food. Sajib Rudra, supervisor of the breeding point and assistant researcher at the Venom Research Centre, said the breeding centre started its journey with only 20 rats.
"Now, nearly 2,000 mice are bred every month, at least 800-1,000 are used as snake food. The remaining 1,000 are used for further breeding and research," he added.
Dr Aniruddha Ghose, chief researcher (principal investigator) of the Venom Research Centre, said initially after the inauguration in 2018, the centre used to buy rats for the snakes but it was not cost-effective so they started breeding rats at the centre.
In a 600 square feet air-conditioned room, more than 50 boxes accommodate the mice. Sajib said the rats are reared and bred following the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"We put wood powder on the rack floors and clean the racks three to four times per month as the excrement mixed with the wood powder often produces ammonia gas. The rats also need to be kept at a temperature of 22-25 degrees Celsius," he added.
The male and female rats are kept separately. Some racks are dedicated for breeding while some are for gestation purposes.
Aniruddha Ghose said the Venom Research Centre started its journey as a 5-year project but they have appealed to the government to make the centre a permanent research institution for venom studies.
"If that happens, our snake population will increase and we will need to breed more mice as well," he added.