Cambodia’s landmine-sniffing rat Magawa, who found more than 100 landmines and explosives during a five-year career, has died at the age of 8.
Magawa will be remembered as a hero in Cambodia, where landmines still pose a threat nearly two decades after the end of the country’s civil war.
The rats are trained by the Belgian NGO APOPO, which has been working in Cambodia since 2016.
Magawa was hailed as a hero rat because of his extraordinary ability to sniff out landmines and other explosives. He is estimated to have found more than 100 of these devices during his five-year career, which helped clear over half a million square meters of land in Cambodia.
In recognition of his achievements, Magawa was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal, which is the animal equivalent of the George Cross, in 2018.
APOPO said that Magawa’s death was “a great loss” but that his legacy would live on through the other rats in its training program.
Cambodia is one of the most heavily-land mined countries in the world, with an estimated 4 to 6 million landmines still buried in its soil.
These remnants of the country’s civil war pose a serious threat to civilians, with around 20 people still killed or injured by landmines every year.
HeroRATs Program by APOPO trains rats to save lives
APOPO has been working in Cambodia since 2016, training HeroRATs. The program not only helps to save lives, but also provides employment opportunities for local people.
HeroRATs detecting landmines
Magawa was the first HeroRAT. Born in 2012, he began his training with the Belgian NGO APOPO in 2013.
HeroRATs are rats that have been trained to detect landmines and other explosives. The rats are able to use their keen sense of smell to locate these devices, which helps to clear landmines from areas that are too dangerous for humans to enter.
To date, the program has trained over 30 rats, which have helped to clear more than half a million square meters of land in Cambodia.
HeroRATs detecting tuberculosis
In addition to their work in landmine detection, HeroRATs are also being trained to detect tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis is a serious health problem in Cambodia, with around 3,000 new cases being diagnosed each year.
The rats’ sense of smell is so keen that they can detect the disease in its early stages, when it is most treatable.
HeroRATs in research and innovation
HeroRATs are also being used in research and innovation projects.For example, they are being trained to sort recyclable materials, such as plastic and glass.
This is important work because it can help to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill.
Magawa: The Hero Rat’s Legacy
Magawa’s death is a great loss, but his legacy will live on through the other HeroRATs that are continuing his work.
These rats are making a huge difference in Cambodia, helping to make the country safer for its people.