‘Hero Rat’ who received medals for finding more than 100 mines in Cambodia dies… ‘Thanks and homage for amazing achievements’
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January 12, 2022
Mine detection rat ‘Magawa’, who was awarded the ‘Hero’ medal for mine removal in Cambodia, has passed away.
Magawa, who was 8 this year, has been working as a mine detection rat for the past five years, detecting more than 100 mines and explosives, and has been awarded a medal for this work.
Magawa was trained by the Belgian non-governmental organization ‘Apopo’ (Anti-personnel mine detection and development organization). Apopo’s minesweeper rats are trained to find mines and alert people to safely remove them.
Apopo has been running mine-detecting animal training programs called HeroRATs since the 1990s.
Apopo said in a statement that the rat, also known as the African mole rat or goblin rat, “died peacefully” over the weekend.
Apopo said Magawa had been healthy until recently and said he had “spent most of his time playing and playing passionately, as usual,” but over the weekend he said he “did slowed down, took more naps and wasn’t interested in food.”
Born in Tanzania, Magawa moved to Cambodia and trained to detect Apopo’s mines and explosives for about a year.
It is estimated that up to 6 million landmines are buried in Cambodia, which has undergone long civil and Vietnam wars.
It weighed 1.2 kg and had a body length of 70 cm, and was a member of the large rodent family, but because it is a relatively light animal, it did not explode even when walking on landmines.
Magawa, who was sent to the scene, searched over 141,000 square meters of land, equivalent to 20 soccer fields. They were able to search a field the size of a tennis court in just 20 minutes.
According to Apopo, it takes up to four days for a person to search the same area of land with a metal detector.
Last year, the British animal rights organization PDSA received the Medal of Valor in recognition of Magawa’s “lifesaving devotion”.
Magawa was the first rodent to receive a gold medal in the 77 years since the PDSA was established.
Magawa retired from the field in June after “slowing down” as he got older.
Announcing the death of Magawa, Apopo said in a statement that “everyone in Apopo feels a void in her, and we thank and pay tribute to the amazing work she has accomplished.” It also added that Magawa’s “amazing sense of smell” has “allowed Cambodians to live, work and play without fear of losing their lives or limbs.”