This Rat Sniffs For Landmines In Cambodia–And Has Just Won A Gold Medal For His Life-Saving Work
A landmine detection rat, whose work in Cambodia has transformed the lives of the country’s citizens, has been awarded the gold medal from a UK charity for his life-saving bravery and devotion to duty.
Magawa is an African giant pouched rat, trained to detect landmines by the international non-profit APOPO.
He has discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance to date, making him the charity’s most successful ‘hero rat’.
During his career he has helped clear over 141,000 square meters of land (the equivalent of twenty football pitches), making that land safe for local people again.
Magawa was formally presented with his miniature Gold Medal from veterinary charity The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) via a live link between Cambodia and Great Britain last week.
He is the first rat in the charity’s 77-year history of honoring animals to receive a PDSA Medal—joining a line-up of brave dogs, horses, pigeons, and a cat.
PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin, gave a statement as to why Magawa won the award: [His] work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these landmines. Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.
HeroRAT Magawa was trained in Tanzania by APOPO to detect the chemical compound within explosives and alert human deminers to its presence.
So how are rats like Magawa trained to do such important work? The same way you might train a puppy: through clicker training. Christophe Cox, CEO of APOPO, explained: “During training [the rats] hear a ‘click’ and receive a tasty food reward for finding the correct target scent.”
Because Magawa completely ignores any scrap metal lying around, he is much faster at finding landmines than the conventional method of using a metal detector.
Magawa can search the area of a tennis court in thirty minutes—something that would take a human with a metal detector up to four days to achieve. That’s impressive indeed.
Congratulations to Magawa, and his trainers, for the recognition they’re receiving for their vital work.
(WATCH Magawa’s amazing story in the PDSA video below.)
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