An award winning mine-detecting rat has retired.
Seven-year-old Magawa – who won the animal equivalent of The George Cross – discovered 71 landmines and 28 unexploded munitions in Cambodia.
He cleared more than 141,000 square metres of land during his career.
Magawa – a giant African pouched rat – was trained to “sniff out” the weapons.
But as he’s becoming older he’s started to slow down.
His handler said it was time to “respect his needs”.
Magawa was presented with a miniature PDSA Gold Medal.
He was 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.
They call their trained rats ‘HeroRATs’.
PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin 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.”
Christophe Cox, chief executive of APOPO, said:
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 handlers.