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Old 09-25-2020, 08:33 PM   #1
JColt
Meet the heroic rat who just won a medal of bravery for finding landmines

Big congratulations are in order for Magawa, an African giant pouched rat just awarded a gold medal for "life-saving bravery" for work detecting dangerous landmines.


Born in Tanzania in 2014, Magawa has since age 2 enjoyed a highly successful career detecting landmines in Cambodia. So far, he has found 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance, according to Apopo, a global nonprofit started in Belgium that trains rats for humanitarian work such as detecting landmines and tuberculosis.


Magawa's impressive record makes him Apopo's most successful working rat, or "HeroRat," to date. It also makes him the first rat in UK animal charity PDSA's 77-year history of honoring critters to win a coveted PDSA Gold Medal. Other animals to get the award have included dogs, horses, a pigeon and a cat, all of whom have showed gallantry, usually in protecting their human companions.

"Apopo's HeroRats significantly speed up landmine detection using their amazing sense of smell and excellent memory," explains Apopo CEO and co-founder Christophe Cox. "We use clicker training to teach rats like Magawa to scratch at the ground above a landmine." That reward method teaches the student rats to distinguish between scrap metal and explosives by offering them rewards whenever they correctly find the right target scent.



Apopo was established in response to research showing the detection of landmines to be the most expensive, tedious part of the global landmine problem.

"Rats are fast," Cox says. "They can screen an area of 200 square meters in half an hour, something which would take a manual deminer four days." So far, Apopo hasn't had any accident with the rats, he says, as they're too light to trigger a mine.

According to Apopo, people in 59 countries from Angola to Cambodia live in fear of landmines and other remnants of past conflict that threaten their personal safety, make critical agricultural land unsafe to access and cut off trade and other routes.

Cambodia alone estimates that between 4 and 6 million landmines were laid in the country between 1975 and 1998. These mines have caused over 64,000 casualties.

African giant pouched rats, which are common to Sub-Saharan Africa, can grow to be up to 3 feet long, including the length of their tail. Unlike domestic rats, it has cheek pouches like a hamster.

Magawa received his little medal Friday via a live video linking Cambodia and PDSA representatives the UK. In the video, Magawa can be seen looking looking extraordinarily cute (like, Remy-level Pixar-cute) wearing his new symbol of heroism on a blue ribbon around his neck. He's also seen at work in the field and snuggling with his handler So Malen.

"I am so proud because Magawa is a great partner for me," Malen says.

Besides a high-profile award, what else can one get a rat deserving of all good things? A gift certificate for a tickle session might be a solid start.


https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/techn...es/ar-BB19qLmX
 

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