Hero rat who hunted for landmines dies in retirement, aged 8

A rat can search for mines far more quickly than a human.

Updated: January 12, 2022 - 8:49pm

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Hero rat "Magawa," who helped communities in Cambodia by sniffing out more than 100 landmines and other explosives, passed away over the weekend while in retirement at the age of eight.

Magawa's passing was announced Tuesday by APOPO, a charity that researches animal scent detection and trains animals to use smell to discover landmines and tuberculosis.

Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, is APOPO's most successful rodent so far. He was born in Tanzania at Sokoine University of Agriculture in November 2013. He was moved to Cambodia in 2016 where he saved residents from injury or death by sniffing out explosives. He retired after five years.

"A HeroRAT can search an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes – a human deminer with a metal detector can take up to 4 days," APOPO states. The rats are too light to set off the mines.

APOPO also detects explosives in Angloa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and has completed projects in Vietnam and Laos.