Rats, beavers and crabs
The Flanders Environment Agency (Vlaamse Milieu Maatschappij, VMM) employs about 90 rat-catchers that control animal species such as the sewer rat, muskrat and beaver rat. Rats cause a great deal of damage to dikes, banks and other structures in the earth due to their digging. Among other things, this causes bank subsidence and dike breaches. At the same time, rats spread diseases and harm the agricultural sector and nature. In addition, international trade has led to the Chinese mitten crab ending up in our waterways. There are now millions of them making a nuisance of themselves. This is reason enough for VMM to map and control all these animals in a scientifically substantiated and ecologically responsible manner.
The rat app
Since 2016, VMM's rat-catchers have been using an application called "the rat app" to support their work. This app consists of a mobile application and a browser management module. The catchers record their activities and collect data in a simple way on a daily basis. For example, it is possible to keep track of the regions where specific types of animal are found, what has been caught and where traps are set up. This all used to be done using pen and paper. All data collected is also analyzed, making it possible to keep an eye on trends. This led to the finding that the muskrat had been almost completely exterminated.
The app has been used for several years, and rat-catchers' methods have evolved since then. A Realdolmen team is responsible for the application's adaptive maintenance. Such maintenance focuses on adapting the functionalities to the environment as it changes. The team added the option of 'mitten crab' to the types of animal and made the app more dynamic, as the animals are now also weighed on the field.