Giant ‘mutant’ rats are being hunted down by a team of snipers in Iran. In scenes which sound like something out of an arcade game or sci-fi movie, a team of army snipers in the capital is trying to deal with the rodents at night by using rifles equipped with infrared scopes, according to reports, with around 2,205 rats apparently killed so far. Although Tehran has had a decades-long struggle with rats, the problem seems to have grown to epic proportions. Rodents – estimated to number millions – have been flushed out of their nests by melting snow and some reportedly weigh as much as 5kg. Authorities have imported 45tonnes of rat poison but have had to ramp up their efforts. Tehran city council environment adviser Ismail Kahram told Iranian news website Qudsonline.ir these rats ‘seem to have had a genetic mutation, probably as a result of radiations and the chemical used on them’. ‘They are now bigger and look different,’ he said, according to the International Business Times. ‘These are changes that normally take millions of years of evolution. They have jumped from 60g to 5kilos, and cats are now smaller than them.’ Dr David Baker, laboratory animal veterinarian at Louisiana State University, told The Huffington Post it’s unlikely the rats got super-sized as the result of a mutation. ‘Nearly all genetic mutations identified across the field of biology are harmful and confer a disadvantage to the species rather than an advantage,’ he said. ‘It’s not like in the sci-fi movies.’ However, he pointed out that there are several species of giant rats found around the world that can achieve the sizes described by Mr Kahram. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad The foreign media have made jokes about Iran ‘taking out opponents’ (Picture: AP) This is because their growth plates don’t fuse after puberty, Dr Baker explained – even common black rats can get very large. ‘During the Middle Ages, black rats in Europe reportedly grew large enough – and children were small enough – to carry off babies,’ he added. ‘Those had to have been some big rats.’ The situation is like a warped bonus round of arcade game Big Buck Hunter – except the only ones scoring points off this emergency seem to be the media. The Times in this country took aim at Tehran’s ‘experience when it comes to [exterminating]… its political opponents’, while The Times of Israel made a Princess Bride reference in its coverage. Whether Tehran’s rats are mutated or not, some scientists have reported that certain rat populations are becoming resistant to poison. Last year, British researchers published findings that estimated three quarter of rats in west England were resistant to rodenticide.