Rat awarded gold medal for ‘lifesaving bravery’ in helping to clear landmines

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Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, has found 39 mines and 28 unexploded bombs on an area of more than 140,000 square yards. He is charity Apopo’s most successful rodent and the first to achieve a miniature PDSA Gold Medal in its 77-year history.

Apopo’s role in Cambodia is vital where up to six million mines were laid between 1975 and 1998 causing 64,000 casualties.

The country has the highest number of mine amputees per capita in the world – more than 40,000 people.

PDSA chief Jan McLoughlin said: “The work of Magawa and Apopo is truly unique and outstanding.

“Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these landmines.

“Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.”

Trainers say rats are intelligent and work at repetitive tasks for food rewards better than other animals.

Their size means they are in less danger when they walk through landmine fields.

The rats are trained to detect a chemical compound within explosives, and because they ignore any scrap metal lying around, they work faster than a metal detectorist.

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