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South Korea warns against eating river rats

South Korea warns against eating river rats

A river rat, or nutria, nibbling vegetables
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EPA

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The river rat, also called nutria or coypu, was introduced for fur farming

South Korea’s government is warning people not to eat river rats, after a reported surge in the number of people hunting the creatures for their bile.

A university study published in January said that the rodents’ gall bladders had a higher level of ursodeoxycholic acid than that found in bear bile, which is used in traditional medicine in parts of Asia. A professor who worked on the study warned that consuming river rat bile was dangerous, but there was a flurry of interest from people wanting to get their hands on one of the animals.

A concerned environment ministry spelled out the risks on Tuesday, telling Koreans that river rats are not safe for human consumption, The Korea Times reports. “The gall bladder and liver can be infected with zoonotic bacteria and parasites,” ministry representative Noh Hee-kyong tells the paper.

While the government doesn’t want people to eat the animals, it does encourage hunting. River rats are considered an invasive species in South Korea, having only been introduced in the 1980s for their fur, The Korea Times notes. As part of its eradication drive, the government offers a cash reward of 20,000 won ($17; £14) for each one caught.

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