Retirement Party Planned for Hero Rat Awarded Gold Medal for Saving Human Lives

Rat Hero, Seriously: they not just responsible members of the community, they lend a foot to reduce the illegal wildlife trade (and they can make an average Provençal dish if you are just pulling some hair out). In addition, in Cambodia, a country ravaged by decades of war and civil unrest, an African giant powder rat named Magawa has helped clear landmines over the past five years. 

Landmines are a serious problem in Cambodia: literally in millions of countries. In the second half of the twentieth century, thousands of people, most of them children, killed every year by landmines and explosives ordinances by various groups and governments. Hundreds more are severely disabled. Born in Tanzania in 2014, Magawa trained to use his incredible scent to throw explosives – something that would otherwise accomplished by a metal detector.

He moved Cambodia to start working as a mine-sniffer in 2016, and he has done an openly incredible job, finding 71 landmines and 38 pieces of ordnance unexplored over the past five years. He even awarded an adorable little gold medal (the first rat in the program to do so) in October last year, recognizing him as “the most obvious courage in the face of extreme danger.” Now, at the ripe old age of seven, it is time for Magawa to retire. The African giant powder rat only survives about 8 years on average and since he helped clear 225,000 square meters (about 2.5 million square feet) of land, the little man rested. Malen, Magawa’s handler, said in a statement, “Magawa’s performance was unbeaten and I’m proud to work with him as well.”“He is small but he has helped save many of our lives by giving back the land to our needy people as soon as possible and at a safe price. However, he is slowing down and we need to respect his needs. I would miss working with him!” APOPO, the company that taught Magawa and his rat friends to discover the mine, said African giant powder rats could screen a field the size of a tennis court in just 30 minutes, while the same task could take a human builder four days. This is because rats are taught to go after the smell of chemicals in the mines, so they are not distracted by random pieces of any explosive scrap that ping the metal detector. The project has seen amazing success. Last year alone, a handful of young people helped clear about 4.4 million square meters (about 1.7 square miles) of land, potentially saving thousands of lives in the process.