Apopo, the Belgian Charity has recently secured $1,000,000 in funding to train African giant rats to detect land mines in war torn countries. The money is a three-year Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship to develop its initiative called HeroRAT technology.
Millions of land mines still remain in many countries around the world. Some 16 million people in Mozambique alone live in fear of injury or death from accidentally stepping on mines. On average, someone is maimed or killed every week by mines. Yet, the need to grow crops to feed themselves and their families, force people to continually face that danger. So mine-detection schemes are developed to remove the mines including mechanical devices and even dogs. Alas these are not fool-proof.
So the use of African Giant Pouched rats (about the size of a small cat) is truly inspired. Bart Weetjen, the charity’s project leader first came up with the idea some years ago. He realised that these rats are ideal for a number of reasons - they not aggressive and are common in Africa, they’re clever, have an acute sense of smell, are less prone to disease than dogs, much easier to train and transport and they live 3 x longer than ordinary rats.
The video shows Jane Goodall, the famed animal behaviourist checking out how they train the rats in Tanzania. They are reward-based trained and there is a strong bond between the handlers and the rats. She thought it was a brilliant idea. These heroic rats will definitely go a long way towards changing their bad image.
Mine Detecting Rats
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