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Swedish wildlife hits the road

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12:32 CEST+02:00
Ah, the joys of early summer! The glories of Swedish wildlife have had time to regroup after the privations of winter, and have started to throng our cities and countryside. The Swedes, being nature-loving sorts, couldn't be happier.

The fauna causing the most excitement in the capital was our old friend rattus rattus. The rodents have invaded builders' portakabins outside the Ringen shopping centre in the Södermalm area of Stockholm. Monday's DN reported that "during the night and the early hours of the morning, the area is crawling with large rats, who are completely unafraid and run backwards and forwards to the pavement to collect food".

And Ratty isn't making chums with the other local wildlife. The rats are competing for food with magpies and crows, which try in vain to chase them away.

The local human population, however, appeared to find amusement from the Dickensian scene outside its doors. "We don't need a TV," René and Gustav Scherlin told DN, "We can just look out the window. They run around and climb on the railings, day and night."

However, with the rats technically able to get in through the Scherlins' windows, something had to be done, and a pest control company is laying down rat poison throughout the area. According to DN, rats would soon become wise to fast-acting poison, so food is instead being laced with anti-coagulation drugs, which means that the rats die of internal bleeding within five days. Lovely.

We may need to kill rats, but there are other animals that we will go out of our way for. And outside France, frogs definitely fall into this category, so it is only right that the taxpayer helps preserve them from the plague of the motorcar. Saturday's DN told of how a large number of frogs were being run over on a stretch of the old E4 road near Salem, south of Stockholm. The Swedish National Road Administration (SNRA) found that in just one night, over 350 salamanders, frogs and toads were splatted on the road.

"It's a massacre, pure and simple," said Martin Larsson from the SNRA. So now the state is building a tunnel under the road, at a cost of up to 400,000 crowns. Money well spent, said the SNRA's wildlife expert, Anders Sjölund: "We need to do this right away - the number of frogs has reduced drastically across the country."

Of course, the relationship between man and nature works two ways and the latest member of the animal kingdom to give humankind a helping hand is the humble mussel. Not content with the distinction of being the national dish of Belgium, mussels are now about to make Swedish water cleaner.

Mussels absorb nitrogen, one of the bi-products of water treatment. Now they are to be cultivated in the sea off Lysekil, north of Gothenburg, to compensate for the nitrogen released by the town's water treatment plant. Sunday's DN reported that thirty hectares of mussels will make up for all nitrogen discharged from the plant.

Great for the environment, no doubt - but if you find yourself eating out in Lysekil, you might want to think twice before ordering the moules frites.

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