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The rat business is booming for Shanghai's own Pied Piper

TRAPPING more than 1,000 rats each month, Hu Chuanjin, a 48-year-old migrant worker from Anhui Province, has become a legendary rat catcher.

Hu's pest company is expecting big business between now and the start of the Shanghai World Expo next May. The company has already seen business leap 30 percent this year, as many restaurants and hotels have launched programs to sanitize their premises in preparation for increasingly stringent health checks in the run up to the world fair.

But Hu's firm doesn't use poison or mousetraps - the traditional ways to get rid of vermin.

"Rats are very cunning, they won't eat poisoned food," says Hu, who explains that rats don't die instantly if they do ingest poison and are also able to develop resistance to common poisons. "Even if they die, you have no idea where the dead mouse is until it starts to stink, which can be very disgusting."

His invention electrocutes pests. A team from the company sets up a mesh of steel wires to form an electric circuit. Once a mouse or rat touches the wire, it will be knocked out or killed by the electric current.

The system is adapted from the traditional method in Hu's hometown.

In Wuhu, Anhui Province, people used to set up a similar electric circuit to shock rats. However, because it hadn't been made safe, the system fell out of use.

"It was not safe for humans either," says Hu, explaining that a strong electric current was used in the past, and people died when they accidentally touched the wires.

Hong Xiaobang, Hu's classmate in primary school who is now studying for his doctoral degree in electrical engineering in Germany, helped Hu change the voltage of the system by adding a transformer to make the system fatal to mice but safe for humans.

Hu came to Shanghai 10 years ago and worked as a food supplier for restaurants and hotels. It was pure chance that made Hu change his career. In 2003, one of his clients was plagued by rats in his restaurant and asked Hu if he had any efficient way in dealing with the problem. Hu told him about how people killed rats in his hometown, and came up with the idea of starting a pest business in 2005.

So far, Hu's company works with about 100 restaurants, and 20 of them have signed contract with Hu for long-term services.

Hu is confident about the future because of the coming World Expo.

"There are too many rats in the city," said Hu. "The city needs a company like us to help create a better environment for the Expo."

Hu's company can be reached by calling 137-6117-1829.


Q: Where did you earn your first bucket of gold?

A: From my first client, who I used to serve when I was a food supplier. He asked me to catch rats for him and I tried my method and caught the lot.

Q: What's the biggest difficulty facing your company?

A: Not many people know about us. I don't think I advertise enough. Most of my clients are introduced through former clients and friends. I think I will register my company on the Web and the city's Yellow Pages to make it easier for people to find us.

Q: Have you been encouraged by any policies from the government?

A: No, there aren't many policies for me since I am not a citizen of the city. And I think the tax for my company should be lower than it is since the service we perform is good for the environment and for everyone's health.

Q: Will you be hiring people in the near future and, if so, how many?

A: Probably I will employ a few more, depending on the state of business. I will hire two or three people if I sign with five more companies this year.


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