City Hall is turning to traditional hunting methods to wage an all-out war against rats which are marauding through the city's residential and commercial districts. Kuala Lumpur's mayor, Mohamad Shaid Taufek, revealed that they are to bring in the orang asli - an indigenous minority who hunt, with deadly accuracy, small animals with two-metre long blowpipes - following a dramatic rise in the number of complaints about the rodent population. The natives of the forest, who have increasingly witnessed housing estates encroaching upon their natural habitat on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, will be paid for each rat they kill with their poison-tipped darts. The campaign to hunt down the rats is understandable when you learn that they can carry up to 36 diseases. Although there have, so far, been no reports of human deaths from eating food contaminated with rodent droppings or urine, officials are taking no chances. To be fair, part of the blame for the rising rat population must go to the residents themselves, in particular some hawkers and restaurant owners, whose hygiene standards leave a lot to be desired. Then there is the problem of infrequent rubbish collection by companies employed by the authorities, which leads to waste being left on the streets. The rats are becoming increasingly bold, and can sometimes be seen scampering across food in restaurants and at hawker stalls. Some are as big as cats and have been spotted scurrying across the road and round drains in broad daylight. Needless to say, the local cats steer well clear of the aggressive creatures, who pack a nasty bite. Between January and September, 5,647 rats were killed by the rodent control unit. But the mayor is confident of bagging many more with the help of the orang asli - a Malay term literally meaning 'original, or first, people'. The orang asli number about 100,000 in Peninsula Malaysia, and are divided into about 18 sub-ethnic groups. Each has its own language and culture. Some groups in the north speak languages that suggest a historical link with the indigenous peoples of Myanmar, Thailand and Indochina. Those who live near the coast make a living mainly from fishing, while some in the country's interior have abandoned their nomadic lifestyle to manage rubber, palm oil or cocoa smallholdings. But they still use their blowpipes to hunt small animals, such as squirrels. The tips of their darts are covered with the poisonous sap of the ara bertih tree, and the hunters rarely miss their prey. But officials are not confining the focus to blowpipes. There is also talk of using guns made specifically for eliminating small animals. And if these measures fail, officials may resort to enlisting the help of catapult-toting rat-busters of New Delhi.