“Heldrat” who sniffed dozens of landmines in Cambodia is retiring

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Magawa, an African possum, will retire in late June after successfully locating dozens of landmines in Cambodia and potentially saving many lives, the organization that trained him announced on Friday.

APOPO, which stands for Anti-Personal Mines Demining Product Development in Dutch, or Anti-Personnel Landmines Removal Product Development in English, is a non-profit organization in Tanzania that trained Magawa to find landmines. Magawa found 71 land mines and 38 unexploded ordnance in his five-year career, according to the organization. To date, he helped clear more than 225,000 square feet of land, the size of nearly 32 football fields.

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“Magawa’s achievement is unbeaten and I am proud to work side by side with him,” his supervisor Malen said in a press release. “He is small, but he has helped save many lives, allowing us to return much needed safe land to our people as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. But he is slowing down and we have to respect his needs.”

Magawa’s efforts earned him a gold medal from the Public pharmacy for sick animals (PDSA), a veterinary charity based in the United Kingdom, making it the first rodent in the nonprofit’s 77-year history to earn the accolade. PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin praised Magawa for his work, calling him a “hero rat” in a virtual presentation of the medal.

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Magawa was awarded a gold medal for detecting dozens of landmines in Cambodia. In his seven-year career, he has found nearly 40.

Public pharmacy for sick animals (PDSA


APOPO has prepared for the end of Magawa’s run by bringing in a new team of rodent recruits. Last week, a group of 20 newly trained landmine detection rats were tested by the Cambodian Mine Action Center and “passed with flying colors,” the organization said.

The rats, which the organization refers to as HeroRATS, are the only animals that can safely detect landmines because of their light weight and sense of smell. They are also much faster than humans to find them – PDSA said Magawa can search an area of ​​a tennis court in 30 minutes, which could take a human with a metal detector up to four days.

According to APOPO, more than 60 million people in 59 countries, from Cambodia to Zimbabwe, live in daily fear of landmines left behind in previous conflicts. With more than 40,000 amputeesCambodia has the highest percentage of amputees per capita in the world. However, progress has been made. In 2020 alone, APOPO Cambodia cleared more than 4 million square meters of land.

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