Landmine Detecting Superstar Magawa Retires

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Magawa has been extremely successful at sniffing out landmines and other concealed explosives in Cambodia (Credit; Apopo.org)

Magawa, an African giant pouched rat trained to sniff out concealed explosive devices, has retired. The rodent, who received British veterinary charity PDSA's gold medal for bravery in 2020, was one of Belgian non-profit APOPO's most successful HeroRATs. During his illustrious five-year career, Magawa discovered more than 71 landmines and helped clear over 2,420,000 sq. feet (225,000 sq. meters) of land in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

His handler, Malen, said: “Magawa’s performance has been unbeaten, and I have been proud to work side-by-side with him. He is small, but he has helped save many lives allowing us to returns much-needed safe land back to our people as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. But he is slowing down, and we need to respect his needs. I will miss working with him!”

Born in Tanzania in 2013, Magawa is one of the hundreds of African giant pouched rats APOPO has bred and trained since the 1990s. The nonprofit — which teaches the animals by rewarding them with treats each time they accomplish a task — says the intelligent rodents are ideal for the dangerous job. They are easy to train and light enough to walk across the minefields without triggering the hidden explosives. The animals' ability to sniff out the chemicals in landmines makes them more efficient at the task than human-held detectors that beep at every scrap of metal.

Magawa with his handler, Malen (Credit: Apopo.org)

Landmines are concealed devices designed to explode when a person or vehicle passes over or near them. They were first used in World War II to protect strategic areas, such as borders and bridges, and to restrict the movement of opposing forces. Since then, landmines have been deployed in numerous conflicts, including the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and the first Gulf War.

While the location of each device was carefully marked and mapped during the early years, things became a little lax as the practice continued. This made it impossible to locate and extract the dangerous explosives once the conflicts had ended. Today, over 60 million people living in 59 countries — from Angola to Cambodia — live in daily fear of landmines and other dangerous remnants of past wars. Hopefully, with brave detection rodents like Magawa hard at work, the threats will soon be removed.

Resources: Apopo.org, NPR.org

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87 Comments
  • pickaxeaxe
    pickaxeaxeMonday, August 2, 2021 at 8:33 pm
    Mice are my favorite animal I love than a lot
    • pickaxeaxe
      pickaxeaxeMonday, August 2, 2021 at 8:05 pm
      Aw man! That was the cutest and biggest most helpful mouse ever! I don't even know him and I'm gonna miss him SO MUCHHHHH
      • eli412
        eli412Monday, August 2, 2021 at 6:07 pm
        I love how this rat is helping people be safe, I feel like war is something we do not want in our lives. We are destroying earth very fast, and it would help earth a lot if everybody can do as much as they can to help the earth be a better place. of course, nothing will be perfect, but we at least need a change.
        • cabingirl10
          cabingirl10Monday, August 2, 2021 at 8:44 am
          That's pretty cute! Very interesting.
          • snakedude
            snakedudeTuesday, July 27, 2021 at 10:22 pm
            wow that s actually so interesting
            • conorboi555
              conorboi555Monday, July 26, 2021 at 2:24 pm
              Wow he amazing
              • ssana
                ssanaFriday, July 16, 2021 at 5:00 am
                I mean not so advanced stuff but I tried to reach him to like sniff things out it would've worked better if it was a dog rofl
                • ssana
                  ssanaFriday, July 16, 2021 at 4:58 am
                  Aww it's so adorable I tried to train my cat to do that I half failed on the bright side he knows lots of tricks follow me if you have a pet uwu
                  • frostwolf192
                    frostwolf192Thursday, July 15, 2021 at 11:19 am
                    I WANT ONE THEY ARE SO CUTE 🥰
                    • hankc
                      hankcWednesday, July 14, 2021 at 9:18 pm
                      That is a big mouse !