In Cambodia, Magawa, a rat is retiring after serving for five years in finding landmines and unexploded ordnance by sniffing. The African giant pouched rodent is the most successful rodent trained and overseen by a Belgian nonprofit, APOPO.
Magawa in his serving years has cleared around 141,000 square meters (1.5 million square feet) of land which in layman’s terms, is equivalent to 20 soccer fields. He made a record by sniffing out 71 land mines and 38 items of unexploded ordnance, consistent with APOPO. And for the first time, it won a British charity’s top civilian award for animal bravery last year, an honour so far exclusively reserved for dogs.
According to what APOPO said, “Although still in healthiness , he has reached a retirement age and is clearly beginning to hamper. “It is time.” While many rodents are often trained to detect scents and may work on repetitive tasks for food rewards, APOPO decided that African giant pouched rats who live up to 8 years were best suited to ground-emplaced mine clearance because their size allows them to steer across minefields without triggering the explosives – and roll in the hay far more quickly than people.
More than 60 million people in 59 countries are still threatened by landmines and unexploded ordinances. In 2018, landmines and other remnants of war killed or injured 6,897 people, the group says.