Laurie Blog

Rats Can be Useful

A five-year veteran of seeking out land mines in Cambodia is retiring.

The veteran is just seven years old, and more surprisingly, a rat.

Magawa, the seven-year-old African giant pouched rat,

has been the biggest success story for APOPO, a Belgium-based nonprofit

that has brought specially-trained rats from Tanzania to Cambodia’s Thai border region,

to do the difficult work of searching for land mines.

Nearly 65,000 people have died, with nearly another 25,000 requiring amputations,

as a result of the booby traps.

Rats like Magawa, which typically live anywhere from six to eight years,

are light enough to navigate mine fields without setting them off,

are trained to differentiate between random scrap metal and explosive chemicals.

Magawa’s track record is pretty fantastic: Successfully detecting 71 land mines and 38 explosive

remnants over the equivalent of 20 football fields worth of land.

Last September, Magawa even received a civilian award for animal bravery by the

People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals—an award typically reserved for dogs.

But now it’s time to retire.

The agency, from its appropriately named @herorats account, tweeted out word of the retirement.

“Although still in good health,” the message read, “he has reached a retirement

age and is clearly starting to slow down. It is time.”

According to a 2020 VOA report cited in the Insider article,

anywhere from four to six million land mines and other explosives are still buried in Cambodia.

Full Story: HERE

Civilian Award Video: HERE

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