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Meet This Life-Saving Rat From Cambodia
AN AFRICAN RAT RECEIVES PRESTIGIOUS GOLD MEDAL FOR SAVING LIVES
A metal detector can take 1–4 days to detect land mines in the war-torn landscapes of Cambodia. However, a Gambian pouched rat named Magawa can detect them in 20 minutes.
But where did Magawa come from? A Belgium-registered charity named Apopo trained Magawa in Tanzania as part of the program HeroRATs where after a year of training, the animals become certified. This program has been around since the 1990s, teaching animals how to detect land mines and tuberculosis. Magawa only works for a half-hour during the day, but as he nears retirement age at 7 years old, Magawa has sniffed out 39 land mines and 28 unexploded munitions in his career. His tremendous work has now been recognized worldwide. In 2020, the U.K. veterinary charity PDSA gave Magawa its gold medal for “life-saving devotion to duty, in the location and clearance of deadly land mines in Cambodia.” Over 30 animals have received this award so far, but Magawa is the first rat. “To receive this medal is really an honour for us,” Apopo’s chief executive, Christophe Cox, told the Press Association news agency. “But also, it is big for the people in Cambodia, and all the people around the world who are suffering from land mines.” Now that’s a real hero if we’ve ever seen one. Thank you, Magawa, for all your hard work, and we hope you have a long and happy retirement ahead of you!
Magawa’s ability to sniff land mines has been lauded as “truly unique,” as he potentially saves hundreds of lives every day. Yet, he weighs a mere 2.75 pounds and is only 28 inches long. While that’s larger than your average rodent, Magawa is still light enough to safely step over land mines without setting them off. That’s been amazing news for Cambodians. The land mine problem began during the civil wars of the ‘70s and ‘80s, causing over 64,000 casualties and creating 25,000 amputees since 1979.
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