A rat hero in Cambodia is retiring this month. Hats off to him!
During a five-year career, this rat hero called Magawa has directly saved the lives of countless men, women and children impacted by hidden landmines and other deadly remnants of war scattered around Cambodia.
But now, Magawa has turned 7, so she has to retire. He is an African giant pouched rat, a species that only live for about 8 years on average. Since this little guy has helped clear over 225,000 square meters (nearly 2.5 million square feet) of land, he has really earned a rest.
“Magawa’s performance has been unbeaten, and I have been proud to work side-by-side with him,” said Malen, Magawa’s handler (depicted below) in a statement. “He is small but he has helped save many lives allowing us to return 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!”
To date, Magawa has sniffed out 71 landmines and 38 items of unexploded ordnance, making him APOPO’s most successful HeroRAT. APOPO is the organization that taught Magawa and his rat buddies to find mines, and according to them African giant pouched rats can scour an area the size of a tennis court for mines in a mere 30 minutes.
For a human deminer, it would take up to four days to do the the same job. Why? Well, because the rats are taught to go after the scent of the chemicals inside the mine. In this way they don’t get distracted by any of the random pieces of non-explosive scrap that would ping a metal detector.
The project has been a resounding success. Just last year, these furry little lifesavers helped clear nearly 4.4 million square meters (about 1.7 square miles) of land, potentially saving thousands of human lives in the process.
Magawa will now live a pensioner’s life eating peanuts and bananas in his rat kennel and become a mentor for the newest rat hero recruits. He even has a retirement party planned, APOPO told Vice.
Cambodia once had more landmines than people. It was time to end that. While Magawa retires, APOPO and their latest ranks of ratty recruits are working hard to make the country mine-free by 2025.
Let it be.