Mine-detecting rat wins gold medal

PDSA

Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, has been awarded a gold medal for his work detecting land mines.

Magawa has sniffed out 39 landmines and 28 unexploded munitions in his career.

The mine-detecting rat received a gold medal which was awarded by the UK veterinary charity PDSA for “life-saving devotion to duty, in the location and clearance of deadly landmines in Cambodia”.

There are thought to be up to six million landmines in the southeast Asian country.

PDSA’s Gold Medal is inscribed with the words “For animal gallantry or devotion to duty”. Of the 30 animal recipients of the award, Magawa is the first rat.

Magawa, 7, was trained by Apopo – a charity registered in Belgium and based in Tanzania. The NGO has been raising HeroRATs which are used to detect landmines and tuberculosis since the 1990s. The animals are certified after a year of training.

Speaking to the Press Association, Christophe Cox, the charity’s chief executive, said that receiving the medal was an honour for them.

“But also it is big for the people in Cambodia, and all the people around the world who are suffering from landmines,” he added.

Magawa who was born and raised in Tanzania, weighs 1.2kg and is 70cm long.

Rats are trained to detect a chemical compound within the explosives. Once they detect an explosive, they scratch the top to alert their human co-workers.