Morogoro trained hero rat awarded a gold medal

Friday September 25 2020

 

The Citizen Reporter
By The Citizen Reporter
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A landmine detection rat which was trained by APOPO a charity based in Tanzania  has been awarded a gold medal for his "lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty".
Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, has discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance.
He is the charity's most successful Hero Rat, having cleared more than 141,000 square metres of land - the equivalent of 20 football pitches.
Magawa’s efforts have earned him a PDSA Gold Medal, which is known as the animal equivalent of the George Cross.
The George Cross recognises acts of heroism by British citizens and military personnel, and the PDSA Gold Medal honours such feats carried out by animals.
It is estimated that between four and six million landmines were laid in Cambodia between 1975 and 1998, resulting in more than 64,000 casualties.
Rats are good at detecting these mines because of their intelligence and their willingness to do repetitive tasks for food, Mr Cox said.
Their small size means they are in less danger in a landmine field and they are faster than alternatives such as a metal detectorist.
Magawa, for example, can search an area as big as a tennis court in just 30 minutes, whereas it would take up to four days for a human with a metal detector to cover the same area.APOPO trains the rats for a year and they work for about half an hour a day, usually early in the morning.
Once the rats find a landmine, they tell their human handlers by scratching the top.
Jan McLoughlin, director general of the PDSA, said the work done by Magawa and APOPO was "truly unique and outstanding".
She added: "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 PDSA Animal Awards programme seeks to raise the status of animals in society and honour the incredible contribution they make to our lives.
"Magawa's dedication, skill and bravery are an extraordinary example of this and deserve the highest possible recognition. We are thrilled to award him the PDSA Gold Medal."