Magawa, a rat decorated for detecting antipersonnel mines in Cambodia, retires after five years of work in which his nose has allowed him to find 71 mines and 38 unexploded bombs in the second country most affected by this type of weapons after Afghanistan.
In his time of service for the Belgian NGO APOPO, Magawa has cleared an area of 225,000 square meters of explosives in areas of Cambodia affected by the bombs and abandoned mines, helping locals to regain their activities without fear of death or death.
APOPO said in a statement that this African giant rat born in Tanzania in 2013 “has directly saved the lives of men, women and children who suffered the impact of hidden mines and other deadly remnants of the war.”
So Malen, one of the male rat’s keepers, highlighted her “unparalleled performance” and her pride in working alongside an animal “small, but one that has helped save many lives.”
“He has allowed us to return secure land to the population in the fastest and most economical way possible. But it is slowing down and we must respect his needs. I will miss working with him,” he said.
The rat, the most effective of APOPO’s rodent team, is capable of searching an area the size of a tennis court in 20 minutes, which would take up to four days for a technician with a metal detector, according to APOPO.
Rats are trained to detect the chemical components of explosives and ignore abandoned pieces of metal to find unexploded ordnance much faster.
The retirement of Magawa and other contemporary rats coincides with the arrival of 20 new rodents that have passed all training tests after arriving in Cambodia in March, allowing APOPO to continue expanding its explosives disposal program.
Magawa’s last service before his final retirement will be to “mentor” the new rats and help them adapt in the coming weeks, according to APOPO.
“Magawa will surely be the best mentor that a heroRAT (as the organization calls these animals) can have,” the NGO said in the statement.
Once retired, you can dedicate the rest of your life to your favorite hobbies: chewing peanuts and bananas and indulging in your weakness, watermelons, without neglecting your form thanks to the exercise wheel installed in your playground.
The rat was decorated last September with a gold medal for its “bravery” and “devotion” from the PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) organization, which rewards animals for their “bravery and devotion.”
This recognition made her the first rat to receive such an award in PDSA’s 77-year history and share the glory with numerous dogs, some horses, pigeons and a cat.
Cambodia is the second most affected country by landmines in the world after Afghanistan, and it is believed that up to 6 million were laid during the armed conflicts that ravaged the country between 1975 and 1998, of which 3 million have not yet been located. .
Antipersonnel mines have caused around 64,000 victims in the country, which has the highest number of amputees by them per capita in the world: more than 40,000 people for a population of 16 million inhabitants.
APOPO explains that it takes nine months to fully train a heroRAT, which is done using tasty rewards given to rodents for finding the mines, which they locate by scratching the surface of the ground.
Although the rats are large (Magawa weighs 1.2 kilograms and is 70 centimeters long), their weight is not enough to detonate the mines.