A 5-year-old African giant pouched rat from Tanzania has been recognized with a prestigious honor for his work detecting mines and explosives in Cambodia.
The rat identified as Magawa was awarded a civilian award for animal bravery by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals on Sept. 25.
According to The Associated Press, the honor is equivalent to the George Cross, an award given to British civilians or soldiers who perform “acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger.”
Magawa has for the last 5 years discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordinance, clearing over 141,000 square meters of land, inadvertently making the region safer for people.
Magawa works with APOPO- a Belgian organization that trains rats to find land mines, it’s estimated that up to 4 to 6 million land mines were laid in Cambodia since the 1970. A good 3 million are still unaccounted for and pose a risk for locals.
Cambodia has the highest number of mine amputees, with more than 64,000 people having sustained mine-related injuries since the 70’s.The trained rats have helped million of people avert danger by freeing them from the dangers posed by the land mines.
Magawa uses his sense of smell to find land mines by following the stench of the chemicals used to make the device. Once he locates one, he signals the exact location to a handler who then disposes of the bomb safely.
The rats are preferred as they find the explosives faster and are too light to detonate the mines.