WEIRD NEWS
11/02/2012 03:03 pm ET

Kill 60 Rats, Get A Cellphone From South African Charity

Some people will do anything for a free phone, though killing 60 rats to get one seems pretty extreme.

But so does the rat problem in an area of Johannesburg, South Africa known as Alexandra, where former president Nelson Mandela lived when he moved to the city.

The neighborhood's crumbling structures, leaking sewage and discarded piles of rotting food are a perfect breeding ground for rats, according to the Guardian newspaper. Things are so bad that some children have had their fingers bitten off while they sleep.

That is why a local charity called Lifeline is sending a message that's loud and clear: Bring in 60 rats and you'll get a new cellphone.

The phones are supplied by a local cellphone company, 8ta, and are given out to people who rat out the required ration of rodents.

Apparently, catching rats is easy-cheesy for experts like Joseph Mothapo, who caught 23 of the animals in one evening using a trap.

“It’s easy. You put your leftover food inside and the rats climb inside, getting caught as the trap door closes,” Mothapo told the Mail & Guardian newspaper. He has earned two cellphones so far and doesn't plant to stop until every member of his family has one.

The rats are killed on the spot, and officials take notes from the captors about where they found the critters so that those areas can be fumigated.

Some animal rights activists have complained the cellphone-influenced mass killings are cruel, according to the Guardian. A spokesman for the 8ta cellphone company denied being part of the plan, releasing a statement downplaying its involvement with the plan.

"You will have to ask Lifeline why they decided to use these promotional products," the statement said. "They do a lot of good community work, including in Alexandra. They used the promotional material to incentivise members of the community. I wasn’t aware this is how they were going to resolve the problem [of rats]. We won’t distance ourselves from Lifeline. It is a charity that does a lot of good work and our support for them is steadfast. I don’t want to deny the story. What I’m saying is that it’s not our initiative."

Local councilwoman Julie Moloi said other ideas for controlling the rodent population have been ineffective.

One idea, giving owls to local schools to hunt down rats, has met with resistance because, according to traditional belief systems, owls are creatures to be feared, TheVerge.com reports.

Moloi noted that there's a real fear that the rodents will "take over" and Alexandra will become "a city of rats."

There is another fear: That locals will be so gung-ho about getting cellphones that they will raise rats just for the purpose of turning them in to receive the reward, according to TechZim.co.zw.

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