It is so surprising to hear that this hero rat was awarded a top animals award for sniffing out dozens of land mines. This special animal has saved a lot of lives by detecting a lot of land mines in Cambodia.
The Tanzanian-born African giant pouched rat that is named Magawa has been trained by APOPO to detect explosives by sniffing. This rat and colleagues have undergone careful training in which they learned how to detect land mines and signify to their human handlers. The mines are then removed to ensure environmental safety.
Magawa is an outstanding sniffer which makes him a hero rat among his skilled colleagues working in Cambodia. He has cleared over 1.5 million square feet of land in a span of four years, an area almost the size of 20 soccer fields. He has been able to discover 39 land mines.
On Friday, the U.K. charity PDSA awarded Magawa its gold medal for his efforts in saving lives. This group started awarding medals to recognize the efforts of animals during World War II. Previous honorees have been awarded to animals like dogs, pigeons, horses, and a cat.
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The CEO and co-founder of APOPO, Christophe Cox, said the organization started exploring different explosive-detection techniques after it discovered that land mine detection was very expensive and tedious.
This is the major reason the organization decided to use rats because these creatures are very fast. They can screen an area of 200 square meters in just 30 minutes; a manual deminer would spend four days doing this.
This is the very first time in our 77-year history of honoring animals that we will have presented a medal to a rat.PDSA chairman John Smith
APOPO makes use of positive reinforcement methods, in which food is rewarded for accomplishing tasks like finding a target. Then they are trained to differentiate scent, of which explosive smells were chosen to get a food reward.