A rat has been awarded a gold medal for his “life-saving bravery” in clearing landmines from war zones.
Magawa – a giant African pouched rat – has unearthed 39 mines and 29 pieces of live ordnance since he was trained to “sniff out” the weapons.
He was cleared 141,000 square metres of land – more than 20 football pitches.
He’s been presented with a miniature PDSA Gold Medal – the animal equivalent of The George Cross.
Magawa is it the first rat in the Peoples Dispensary For Sick Animals’ 77-year history to be granted the honour.
He was trained by APOPO, a Belgian charity that trains southern giant pouched rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis. T
They call their trained rats ‘HeroRATs’.
Christophe Cox, chief executive of APOPO, said:
“To receive this medal is really an honour for us.
“Especially for our animal trainers who are waking up every day, very early, to train those animals.
“But it is also big for the people in Cambodia, and people all around the world who
are suffering from landmines.
“The PDSA Gold Medal award brings the problem of landmines to global attention.”
The rats are “intelligent” and will work at repetitive tasks for food rewards – usually a banana.
And, their size means they are in less danger when they walk through landmine fields.
They work for about 30 minutes a day, starting in the early morning.
Once they detect a landmine, they scratch the top, which alerts their human
Jan McLoughlin, PDSA Director General said:
“The work of Magawa and APOPO is truly unique and outstanding.
“Cambodia estimates that between four and six million landmines were laid in the country between 1975 and 1998, which have sadly caused over 64,000 casualties.”
“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.
“The PDSA Animal Awards programme seeks to raise the status of animals in society and honour the incredible contribution they make to our lives.”
“Magawa’s dedication, skill and bravery are an extraordinary example of this and deserve the highest possible recognition.
“We are thrilled to award him the PDSA Gold Medal.”