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.
Feature Image via PDSA