Cambodia Awards Landmine Detection Rat Miniature Gold Medal for Bravery
A rat undergoing training to detect mines eats a snack during a training session on an inactive landmine field in Siem Reap province of Cambodia. (For representation/REUTERS)
A landmine detection rat has been awarded a gold medal for his “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty”. Magawa the rat has till date discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance in Cambodia.
Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, was trained by charity APOPO. The most successful Hero Rat, Magawa has so far cleared more than 141,000 square metres of land, The Guardian reported.
The rat has formally been recognized for his contribution towards safety of those who live near the landmines and has also been presented with a miniature PDSA Gold Medal, the animal equivalent of the George Cross. He is the first rat in the charity’s 77-year history to receive an award like this.
Chief executive of APOPO Christophe Cox was quoted as saying, “To receive this medal is really an honour for us. I have been working with APOPO for over 20 years. Especially for our animal trainers who are waking up every day, very early, to train those animals in the morning."
“But also it is big for the people in Cambodia, and all the people around the world who are suffering from landmines. The PDSA Gold Medal award brings the problem of landmines to global attention.” he added.
Cox said rats are relatively clever and have been seen to engage in repeated tasks for getting food in return as compared to other animals. Also, their small size makes it easier for them to walk around the mines without much danger.
The animals are trained to detect a chemical compound inside explosives and they need a year of training before they are certified. The rats are made to work for half an hour a day and during the early hours of the morning. When they detect a landmine, they scratch the top, letting their handlers know.
Magawa is adept at searching a tennis court in 30 minutes, something which a human would take at least 4 days for with a metal detector.
An official said Cambodia had an estimated 4 to 6 million landmines laid out between 1975 and 1998, causing over 64,000 casualties.
“Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these landmines. Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people," the official was quoted as saying.
A virtual presentation for Magawa will take place on Friday.