The British charity veterinary organization PDSA has presented an African giant rat named Magawa
with the prestigious gold medal for its work in detecting landmines in Cambodia. This was announced
on Friday, September 25, by BBC.
The PDSA Gold Medal bears the words For Animal Courage or Devotion to Duty. Magawa is the first rat out of 30 animals that received the award for life-saving loyalty to their duty.
Born and raised in Tanzania, 7-year-old Magawa weighs 1.2 kg and is 70 cm long. He is still small and light enough not to blow up mines as he walks over them.
Magawa is able to search a field the size of a tennis court in just 20 minutes – which would take a person with a metal detector from one to four days.
During his sapper career, he found 39 landmines and 28 unexploded ordnance. The rodent was trained by Apopo, a charity organization registered in Belgium.
It is based in Tanzania and has been raising rats known as HeroRATs since the 1990s to detect mines and tuberculosis. After a year of training, the animals are certified.
Rats are trained to detect the chemical in explosives, meaning they ignore scrap metal and can search for mines faster. Once they find the explosives, they scratch the top to alert their fellow humans.
Since 1979, Cambodia has reported more than 64,000 casualties and about 25,000 amputees due to mine explosions, according to the HALO Trust, a non-governmental organization for demining.
Many mines were laid during the civil war in the country in the 1970s and 1980s. It is believed that up to 6 million landmines have been planted in Cambodia.