A giant African pouched rat receives a gold medal for his heroic work as a landmine locator in Cambodia. The little hero actually saved the lives of many locals by sniffing out and locating hidden explosives in the country.
Magawa’s Honorable Duty
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a veterinary charity based in the UK, awarded a gold medal to the rat named Magawa. The rodent actually managed to find landmines in Cambodia. The PDSA believes the country has millions of landmines and other buried explosives. CNN said several reports suggest that only half of the country has been cleared.
Drumroll please! 🥁 Say hello to Magawa 👋 the first rat to be awarded the #PDSAGoldMedal & one of APOPO's @HeroRATs trained to detect landmines 🐀 He's discovered 39 landmines making him their most successful HeroRAT🦸♂️ Watch his full story here 👀: https://t.co/so5CNCWlUw pic.twitter.com/YrVy2NWotW
— PDSA (@PDSA_HQ) September 25, 2020
Over the years, Cambodia has exerted efforts to eradicate landmines that accumulated from years of conflict. Although the war was over, the explosives still cause several deaths every year. A non-government organization even said that these undetonated explosives have killed over 64,000 since 1979.
But finding and clearing the lands of explosives could pose risks to the lives of people. So Magawa helped in this effort.
Clearing the Landmines
A non-governmental group actually trained the rodent. The organization, called APOPO, takes care of animals that would detect landmines through sniffing. Trained animals, dubbed as HeroRATS, learn to ignore scrap metals lying around and would notify a person upon smelling an explosive.
Magawa is perfect for the job. Although larger than an average rat, Magawa still weighs lighter than humans that he could search for landmines without detonating them. Furthermore, PDSA said Magawa has a good sense of smell. He can actually spot the exact location of the buried explosives.
Throughout his life, Magawa has detected 39 landmines. He has also sniffed out 28 unexploded ordnance. Overall, the trained rodent has cleared more than 141,000 square meters (1.5 million square feet). Moreover, PDSA said that Magawa has the capacity of clearing an area the size of a tennis court in just 30 minutes. For comparison, the same takes a human with a metal detector about four days.
Devotion to Duty
A HeroRAT like Magawa helps create safety among locals. The Southeast Asian country has the highest mine amputees per capita in the world. With Magawa’s work, he reduces the risk of casualties and severe injuries from undetonated explosives.
For that and his record, he received the title of the PDSA’s most successful Hero Rat, on top of a miniature Gold Medal. As a matter of fact, Magawa is the first rat to earn the title among 30 animals who have received it. The inscription on his medal reads: “For animal gallantry or devotion to duty.”
APOPO chief executive Christophe Cox said that the recognition serves as an honor for the organization. He also acknowledged the efforts of the animal trainers “waking up every day, very early, to train those animals in the morning.”
“The PDSA Gold Medal award brings the problem of landmines to global attention.”