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World’s best Landmine hunter Hero rat Magawa dies at 8

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A Cambodian land mine-detecting rat who got a renowned medal for his life-saving efforts has died in retirement, according to the charity for which he worked.

According to an announcement on the website of APOPO, a non-profit organization based in Belgium, Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, died last weekend. Rats and dogs are trained by the group to sniff out land mines and TB.

“All of us at APOPO are feeling the loss of Magawa and we are grateful for the incredible work he’s done,” the announcement said.

Magawa was born in Tanzania in November 2013, where APOPO’s operational headquarters, training and breeding facilities are located. In 2016, he was deported to Cambodia.

Magawa’s death came a day after three mine clearance professionals working for another organization were killed in Cambodia’s northern district of Preah Vihear when an anti-tank mine exploded accidentally. Cambodia is strewn with land mines and other unexploded ordnance left over from a nearly three-decade civil war that ended in 1998.

APOPO’s Cambodia office expressed condolences for the three dead and one injured members of the Cambodia Self Help Demining organization.

Magawa, who retired last year after a five-year career, is said to have identified more than 100 land mines and other explosives.

“His contribution allows communities in Cambodia to live, work, and play without fear of losing life or limb,” said the group.

The rat also received a gold medal from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals in the United Kingdom in 2020, which is considered the highest honor an animal can earn for bravery.

Because of their small size, African giant pouched rats are thought to be particularly well-suited for land mine clearing because they can move over my fields without triggering the explosives.

Magawa was housed in his usual cage in retirement in Cambodia’s northwestern region of Siem Reap, and fed the same diet — largely fresh fruit and vegetables — that had sustained him during his active career.

He was freed for 20-30 minutes a day into a larger cage with amenities including a sandbox and a running wheel to keep him trim. The fact that he died at the age of eight was not exceptional for the species.

Image Credit: Reuters

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