Magawa the ‘hero rat’ from Cambodia wins gold medal for searching landmines

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Magawa, an African large pouched rat, was given a gold medal by the British veterinary charity Individuals’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) for his work detecting undetonated landmines in Cambodia.

Many years of battle have left the Southeast Asian nation plagued by tens of millions of landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and different explosive remnants of battle that also kill or injure dozens of individuals annually.

Cambodia, with help from different nations, has spent years slowly clearing the land of explosives, nevertheless it’s troublesome and harmful work.

That is the place Magawa is available in.

Magawa was skilled by non-governmental group APOPO (which in Dutch stands for “Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling,” or in English, Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Improvement).

The group, which was based in Belgium and is headquartered in Tanzania, trains rats like Magawa to detect the scent of the explosive chemical substances utilized in landmines and level them out to their handlers.

Magawa at work detecting landmines.

Magawa is bigger than your common pet rat — however nonetheless gentle sufficient he would by no means set off a landmine by strolling over it, the way in which human de-miners may.

In seven years, he has found 39 landmines and 28 gadgets of unexploded ordnance, serving to clear greater than 141,000 sq. meters (practically 35 acres) of land, in accordance with PDSA — making him the charity’s finest performing rat.

“Magawa is a hero rat. We’re thrilled to rejoice his life-saving devotion by awarding him the PDSA gold medal,” PDSA’s Director Common Jan McLouglin stated in a digital presentation of the medal, which was specifically designed to suit on Magawa’s work harness.

The PDSA Gold Medal, a part of the group’s Animal Awards program, is “the best honor for excellent animal bravery and distinctive dedication in civilian life,” in accordance with its web site.

African large pouched rats are clever and straightforward to coach, in accordance with the press launch; Magawa started coaching from a younger age, and “handed all his checks with flying colours” earlier than being deployed to Cambodia.

He has been skilled to disregard scrap steel mendacity about, and alerts to his handler when he detects a landmine’s precise location. He is so quick at discovering landmines that he can clear an space the dimensions of a tennis courtroom in 30 minutes — one thing which may take a human 4 days utilizing a steel detector, stated PDSA.

“Each day, HeroRAT Magawa’s work is life-saving and life-changing and has a direct affect on the boys, ladies and youngsters within the communities during which he works,” stated the press launch. “For each landmine or unexploded remnant he finds, he eradicates the danger of demise or severe damage in places already struggling vital hardship.”

Cambodia has the best variety of amputees per capita on the earth, with 25,000 unexploded ordnance-related amputees. Because the fall of the Khmer Rouge’s brutal regime in 1979, Cambodia has recorded 64,840 casualties attributable to mines or different explosives, in accordance with the Cambodian Mine Motion and Sufferer Help Authority.
A number of nations dropped unexploded ordnance throughout Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos through the Vietnam Conflict. The US alone dropped 2.7 million tons of ordnance — together with cluster bombs and submunitions — over a four-year carpet-bombing marketing campaign in Cambodia. As much as 1 / 4 of the cluster bombs didn’t explode, that means they stayed lively and harmful however out of sight, in accordance with a 2019 report by the US Congressional Analysis Service.

Then, after the autumn of the Khmer Rouge, the following civil battle and Vietnamese invasion noticed extra landmines laid throughout the nation.

The PDSA estimates that there are nonetheless three million unexploded landmines in Cambodia. Some experiences estimate that solely half the nation’s land has been cleared to date, in accordance with the congressional report.

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