Magawa, Hero Rat

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  • Magawa, a rat who spent most of his life sniffing out land mines in Cambodia and was recognized for his lifesaving contributions, died last weekend, the nonprofit that trained him said in a statement on Tuesday.

    “The African giant pouched rat was part of the “HeroRAT” initiative run by the Belgian nonprofit APOPO, which works across Southeast Asia and Africa, training rats to detect land mines and tuberculosis.

    “Over the course of a yearslong career with APOPO, Magawa found more than 100 land mines and other pieces of unexploded ordnance, the nonprofit organization said, describing him as the most successful rat in the program to date.

    “APOPO’s so-called “HeroRATs” are trained to detect the explosive TNT, and can search an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes. The same work would usually take a person with a metal detector four days.

    When the rats find a mine, they signal to their handler by scratching at the earth above it. Their light weight means they are able to avoid detonating mines, unlike humans, so there is minimal risk of injury.

    “Magawa will leave a lasting legacy in the lives that he saved as a land mine detection rat in Cambodia,” APOPO said in a statementhonoring him that was published on its website.

    NYT, 11 January 2022