The Pied Piper of Hamelin lured rats into the Weser River where they all drowned. But Salahuddin Mamun of Rajshahi has done the reverse. He has set up a rat farm in his village. It all started out as a hobby. Now he has thousand rats in his farm and they are used for research purpose in laboratories of different universities and pharmaceutical companies.
Mamun is from Shamsadipur of Katakhali in Rajshahi district. This youth is a pioneer in the lab rat business in Bangladesh.
Mamun graduated from the anthropology department of Rajshahi University (RU). Then he worked as a researcher in three international research organisations. Now he is the director of the entomology laboratory of the RU zoology department.
Started out of affection
A PhD researcher of the zoology department of Rajshahi University came to the lab towards the end of 2017 with four rats in a carton. His research was over and he asked someone to free the rats.
But Mamun fell in love with the snowy white rats. He took the Swiss albino rats home and started rearing these in his veranda. Ten days later, the two mice gave birth to 10 little pink rats.
A month after setting up the farm, Mamun sold 20 rats for Tk 1000 to Anjuman Ara, the museum curator of RU's zoology department. After that he sold another 20 of the little 'pinkies' to Mahmudul Hasan, a student of the genetic engineering department of RU for Tk 800.
Then one day a teacher of pharmacy department of RU called him to buy rats and later instructed him how to rear them properly.
Five departments of RU now purchase lab rats from Mamun for research purposes. Alongside RU, he supplies rats to the Varendra University of Rajshahi and different pharmaceutical companies in Dhaka.
He earns Tk 8000 to Tk 10,000 a month by selling these rodents to universities and pharmaceutical companies. Each rat costs Tk 70.
A day at the rat farm
Mamun rears the rats in plastic boxes enclosed by metal netting to protect the rodents from snakes and cats. The rats feed on broiler chicken feed, paddy, wheat and maize.
Mamun said, "I have to clean the cartons every two or three days. Then I place them in fresh cartons after eight or ten days as they gnaw the boxes."
He is studying how rats are reared across the world as he wants to expand his project.
"The Swiss albino rat species of ‘of the United States produce babies six times a year. But in Bangladesh, there reproduce 10 times a year. It will be possible to earn foreign exchange by exporting rats
He said, "The Swiss albino rat species of ‘of the United States produce babies six times a year. But in Bangladesh, there reproduce 10 times a year. It will be possible to earn foreign exchange by exporting rats."
Mamun said all types of rats are needed for research. However, the demand of a 20-30 gram rat is high in the research market. A baby rat grows to 20-30 grams in a month. Now he has more than 100 mother rats.
Mamun’s mother Yasmin Khatun said, "My son has succeeded in this business. Our family gets an extra income each month from his farm."
Pro vice-chancellor of RU Professor Ananda Kumar Saha said, "We used to conduct research in our laboratory with rats brought in from Dhaka. Now Mamun meets our demand. We certainly appreciate this initiative. It could be promising sector for Bangladesh."
This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by NH Sajjad