A landmine-detecting rodent was recently awarded a medal for heroism, the animal equivalent of the George Cross.
Mini Minesweeper: Magawa, an African giant pouched rat trained to detect landmines, is the first-ever recipient of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Gold Medal for his work in finding undetonated landmines in Cambodia, CNN reports.
- PDSA, the UK’s top veterinary charity, recognized Magawa’s work in finding “39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance.”
- His work has helped clear over 141,000 square meters (almost 35 acres) of land.
- According to its website, the PDSA Gold Medal is “the highest honor for outstanding animal bravery and exceptional dedication in civilian life.”
- In the virtual presentation of the medal, PDSA’s Director General Jan McLouglin said: “Magawa is a hero rat. We’re thrilled to celebrate his life-saving devotion by awarding him the PDSA gold medal.”
About the HeroRATs: Magawa is the best performing rat from the Mine Detection HeroRATs, special rodents that were bred and trained at APOPO HQ in Morogoro, Tanzania.
- Magawa, who turns 6 in November, began training from a young age to become a HeroRAT.
- Before being deployed to Cambodia, Magawa “passed all his tests with flying colors.”
- Like other HeroRATs, he has been trained to ignore scrap metal, making him more efficient than the traditional use of metal detectors. He is speedy enough to clear a tennis court-sized area in 30 minutes, compared to a human with a metal detector in four days.
- While Magawa is larger than an average rat, he is still light enough to not set off a landmine by walking over it.
- His skills are being put to good use in Cambodia, where millions of landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO) and other explosives remain littered following decades of conflict.
- According to the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, 19,779 people have been killed, 36,023 injured and 9,047 amputated due to landmine and unexploded ordnance incidents from 1979 to October 2019.