- Volunteering with KSB and loving every minute
- We are all accountable for our actions
- Hillhead students talk keeping Kelvingrove Park beautiful
- Making it easy to choose a reusable cup for takeaway drinks
- Get to know...John MacLennan
- Get to know...Sandy Scott
- How Eco-Schools benefits pupils, teachers and communities
- Community gardening for climate, nature and heritage in Cumbernauld
- Tackling the litter emergency to protect our wild isles
- Scotland isn't looking so beautiful. We can change that.
- Get to know... Green Flag Award Judges
- Collaboration and innovation to tackle marine litter
- An introduction to Kinnesswood in Bloom...
- The litter emergency
- Our charity faces the environmental challenges ahead with optimism
- Wrapping up 2022
- Biodiversity - Reflections on COP15
- Small steps to protect biodiversity
- Why Mountains Matter
- It’s not just bees and butterflies on your flowers
- Wet Wipes - What's the Issue?
- Young Reporters on the Route: The Launch of Running Out of Time
- Getting to know... Tom Brock OBE
- Getting to know...Kyle Usher
- A busy day for Upstream Battle education
- Planning a Wedding with the Planet in Mind
- 'Disposable' vapes and the damage they cause
- Climate Emergency Training provides positive opportunities for young people
- Making climate action possible for everyone
- Reasons to be positive
- Shotts is ACTing NOW on climate change
- Hope is a Garden
- Beautiful Scotland judging - the truth
- Supporting Scotland to be the very greenest destination it can be
- Arbroath - working together, inspiring local climate action and improving lives
- Reflections of a beach manager
- I do like to be beside the seaside
- Climate Action Schools - helping young people take action
- Inspiring and empowering young people
- Climate Ready Classrooms at George Heriot's
- Data drives decisions
- Litter, fines and doing time
- Why our Web Developer Cameron loves being part of Team KSB
- It's only one
- Why join the family of It’s Your Neighbourhood?
- YoungScot Legacy Event
- Why it is the sea and SDG 14 for me
- Litter picking - a surprisingly fun group activity
- Climate Action Skills and positive action for all
- Seeing community groups thrive with Beautiful Scotland and It's Your Neighbourhood
- (What to do on) a dreich morning on the Firth of Clyde
- West Lothian Litter Pickers – How I got involved
- Scotland’s Climate Festival – Seed funding for community action
- Climate Ready Classrooms at St. Paul’s RC High School
- Scottish Book Trust representative joins Pocket Garden judging panel
- Have #YourSayOnLitter - we plan to...
- Everyone has something to say about litter – time to make it count
- Who ya gonna call?
- Why I pick up other people's garbage.
- Getting to Know...Colin
- Creative Careers: Spotlight on Heritage #NoWrongPath
- Celebrating Scotland’s best managed green and blue spaces
- Taking small steps towards a more sustainable future
- Caring for our planet
- Football’s Power to Combat Climate Change
- Our work on the COP26 Youth Climate Programme
- What’s litter got to do with climate change?
- Scotland’s Climate Festival kicks off in Falkirk
- Responsible Tourism – an opportunity not to be missed
- Climate Change Vlog by Dalry Primary School
- Failing our future?
- Our Week of Climate Action
- #ScotClimateWeek - our impacts and actions
- Protecting the sand and sea
- Another fine mess – part one
- Designing a lower carbon Scotland
- Getting to know... Lisa Snedden
- Combating climate change with information, education and training
- Litter picking 500 miles was always Gonna Be easy
- 7K for 7 Flags Challenge
- Littering less at St Joseph's Primary School in Glasgow
- Smashing litter picking targets during an unexpected stay in Scotland
- Keeping our communities beautiful
- Celebrating our brilliant volunteers
- Designing a pocket garden
- Getting to know... Nicola Smith
- East Haven Together
- It’s time to litter-ly turn anger into action
- Working in partnership to give communities a helping hand to clean up Scotland
- Why Beautiful Scotland is important to Lauder in Bloom
- We can all be climate ready
- Climate Ready Classrooms at Speyside High School
- Taking part in It's Your Neighbourhood
- Bags of opportunity for good
- Getting to know... Eve Keepax
- Lucky to live here
- A year of opportunity ahead
This week is #GlobalGoalsWeek so it is more important than ever to focus on the 'why' behind climate action.
This blog from our Education and Learning Officer Nicola Davidson tells how her passion for 'pests' has deepened her understanding of UN Sustainable Development Goal 15 ‘Life on Land'.
Did you know that rats laugh when they are tickled? You can’t hear it as the vocalisations are around 50kHz, way above human hearing, but it is there. Rats are one of my favourite animals. They are intelligent and highly social creatures. And yet they are often called ‘pests’. Species we call pests come in all shapes and sizes, but they share one thing, which is they get in our way. They eat our food, spread diseases and damage our property. As such, we often feel little remorse in trying to kill them, often in huge numbers. Many of our methods of pest control are non-specific, which means that lots of other animal and plant species are harmed at the same time. But, what if we reframed our view and stopped designating species as ‘pests’? Maybe then we could learn to live alongside and in balance with them, rather than just killing them.
Our relationship with the natural world has always fascinated me. I started my career nearly 17 years ago as a vet working in private practice, trying to help improve animal welfare and seeing the damage ‘pest’ parasites can do. During my time in practice, I developed a keen interest in parasites and went on to do a Masters in the subject, learning about insect pests as vectors for disease. I spent some time as a veterinary pathologist, seeing first hand the damage that diseases spread by pests, such as leptospirosis, can do. The evidence was not in favour of the pests, yet the indiscriminate way they were killed, and the environmental effects of pest control did not sit well with me.
This feeling led me to my PhD research project, looking to reduce the environmental effects of rat poisons.
During my PhD, I learned how much of an affect rat poisons were having on other species in the environment. Rat poisons are not nice chemicals. They kill animals over several days, often with extremely painful effects. In addition, rat poisons are eaten by lots of rodents other than rats, including wood mice and voles. These are then eaten by birds of prey and other predators, with alarming numbers of these species being found with rat poisons in their systems. As part of my PhD, I got to observe how amazing rats are. I recorded rat vocalisations and their behavioural responses to them. You can see a trace of one of my recordings below.
The vocalisations are complex and used by rats during positive social interactions, including as a kind of laughter when they are tickled.
These are animals that deserve our respect and admiration, not our disgust. It is time to stop labelling species as pests and learn how to live alongside them. This will be vital if we are going to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 15 ‘Life on Land’. In order to halt biodiversity loss, we need to stop flooding the environment with toxic chemicals, such as rat poisons. Recently, the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) published guidance on humanely controlling rodents where it is necessary. Their approach calls for a focus on prevention. By preventing rats, and other rodents, from entering our homes and food stores, we remove the need to kill them. Where control is needed, UFAW recommend the use of and use of good quality snap traps, which are more welfare friendly and less environmentally damaging than poisons.
Other organisations are looking at their labelling of species as ‘pest’ in a bid to reduce harmful chemical use. The Royal Horticultural Society recently announced they are moving away from calling anything a ‘pest’. For slugs in particular, it is now recognised that the majority of species don’t actually eat healthy plants. Most of them eat dead and decaying matter, helping to break it down. They are an essential part of the garden ecosystem. Instead, the RHS want to focus on maintaining a balance in gardens, using sacrificial crops to attract species such as slugs away from more valuable ones and encouraging more predators of these species into our gardens, rather than using chemical control.
In my role of Education and Learning Officer with Keep Scotland Beautiful, I hope to be able to spread the word that it’s time for us to live in balance with nature, rather than trying to rule it. I hope the word ‘pest’ becomes redundant in our labelling of animals and we learn to appreciate their good, and funny, sides.
So, the next time you see a rat, remember it can laugh, and maybe you’ll feel more friendly towards it.