Even little old isolated Australia hasn't escape unscathed:
Still today, global reports of the Bubonic plague crop up. However, we really need to keep things in perspective here and for the most part native rodents don't pose any significant risk to human health.
Take this little guy for example it's one of Australia's largest rodents - the Water Rat. He was trapped [humanely] at Jo's work and she brought him home so we could find a suitable release site that night. I've gotta tell you, I was mightily impressed by this little animal. This species is often confused with platypus when seen swimming on the surface of the water and grow to a length of over 300mm with a tail length of around 270mm - that makes a total length of over half a meter! ... that's pretty damned impressive. There are also reports of them weighing in at over a kilogramme. Not bad for a rodent.
They are also often confused with the infamous White Tailed rat due to the white pigment of the last third of their tail. However, identification is relatively straight forward as the white-tailed rat has little to no fur on it's tail.
|Vermin? I think not.|
The thing that really got my attention though was this little animals vocal repertoire. From plaintive keening to snorts and pig like grunts he wasn't backwards about letting me know his emotional state at any one time and made it quite clear that he was in no mood to be trifled with. Of course, this was all a fear response and a reasonable reaction to having been trapped. From my observations he was actually very timid and not an animal to be loathed or reviled at all.
As a native animal they are protected, although poisoning and other culling methods do seem to be tacitly condoned by the powers that be as most people have little or no tolerance for such animals due to the rodent proclivity for chewing through power cables and helping themselves to food/grain stores. However, it should be noted that many rodents also help spread seeds that are vital to the regeneration of native plants. So you know, perhaps in this enlightened age we could be a little more tolerant and a damn sight more humane eh?.
The main threats to the Water-rat today are habitat alteration as a result of flood mitigation and swamp drainage, and predation by introduced animals such as cats and foxes. ^source