In this Bart Weetjens keynote, the speaker opens up about his passion for rats and Africa, and how he's created an extraordinary project that uses trained rats to detect land mines. He begins his keynote by describing rats as highly sociable and easy-to-train animals. They are extremely sensitive to smell and can map a wide range of smells and communicate them efficiently.
Accompanying his speech are a variety of videos demonstrating how the rats are trained in the lab prior to going out on the fields. Using a clicker that reinforces particular behaviors that are associated with different food rewards, the rats are trained to sniff out the location of land mines. Not only is this method quicker and much less dangerous, but it also saves a significant amount of money per square foot.
Bart Weetjens' next project focuses on training the rats how to detect tuberculosis.