A rat awarded a gold medal of bravery, detected 39 landmines in Cambodia.
The UK’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) on Friday awarded the Gold Medal as a Bravery Award to Magawa, an African rat engaged in the task of locating the landmines in Cambodia. Magawa is an African giant pouched rat, which is only 8 years old.
Who is Magawa and, why was he awarded the Gold Medal?
Magawa is currently working in Cambodia. Magawa can search an area equivalent to a tennis court in just 30 minutes. If the same work is done by a man with a metal detector, then it takes up to four days.
Magawa has detected more than 39 landmines so far. Helped to recover 28 unexploded ordinances. He has thus cleaned 1,41,000 sqm area (as much as two football fields). That makes Magawa the most successful Hero Rat of the charity so far.
What is Hero Rat and, who gives the training to these rats?
A Dutch charity named APOPO has been training the rats to find landmines in Tanzania since the 1990s. APOPO in English means anti-personal landmines detection product development. This organization was established in Belgium. Its headquarters is in Tanzania. By training mice like Magawa, they are used to find explosive chemicals such as landmines by smell.
The African giant pouched rat is larger than normal rats. However, they are not so heavy that the landmine will blast due to their weight. Like the Magawa African Giant Pouched Rats are generally intelligent, which can easily be trained.
The official job title of Magawa and others like him are ‘Hero Rat’. If a mouse detects a landmine because of its chemical, he signals it to his handler. The landmine is then taken out as a precaution.
So far this medal has been awarded to more than 30 animals. However, till now only dogs have won this award. Last year, a police dog, Bakka, was given this award. In 2018, Bakka caught an attacker who broke the window of houses at a Bromyard in the UK. Bakka suffered eight wounds to the head and neck during that encounter.