A Cambodian rat who won a medal for heroism has died at the age of 8, according to an announcement on Tuesday by the Belgian charity that trained him.
The rat, named Magawa, was an African giant pouched rat from Tanzania who was trained by Belgian charity APOPO to detect undetonated landmines and explosive ordinances. He began his career in 2016 and in 2020 was awarded the first People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Gold Medal for his work.
Since 1979, landmines in Cambodia have affected more than 64,000 lives, according to the nonprofit organization Halo Trust. The landmines were planted starting in 1979 during the ousting of the Khmer Rouge regime, all the way through the 1980s and 1990s.
Rats are light enough to walk across the mines without accidentally detonating them, and can be trained to sniff out chemical compounds found in explosives. More successful rats like Magawa can search a tennis-court sized plot of land for landmines within 30 minutes, which according to The New York Times would take a human up to four days. Magawa reportedly enjoyed receiving treats like bananas and peanuts as a reward for his hard work.