Cambodia deploys rats to sniff out landmines

·1-min read
A mine detection rat sniffs for landmines in an area being demined in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia (REUTERS)
A mine detection rat sniffs for landmines in an area being demined in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia (REUTERS)

Cambodia has deployed a batch of rats to sniff out landmines.

The move comes as part of efforts to boost de-mining operations in a country plagued for decades by unexploded ordinance (UXO).

Twenty African giant pouched rats were recently imported from Tanzania and have undergone intense training.

Speaking at an exercise in Preah Vihear, handler So Malen said the rats were “easy to work with”.

“They don’t care about who their handlers are,” he said.

“Any one of us can be their handler and most importantly, they don’t bite.”

Magawa, the recently retired mine detection rat, plays with its previous handler (REUTERS)
Magawa, the recently retired mine detection rat, plays with its previous handler (REUTERS)

Scarred by decades of civil war, Cambodia is one of the world’s most heavily landmined countries, with more than 1,000 sq km (621 sq miles) of land still contaminated.

It has among the highest number of amputees per capita, with more than 40,000 people losing limbs to explosives.

The new rat batch replaces a recently retired group that includes Magawa, who found 71 landmines and 28 UXO during his five-year career, according to APOPO, an international organisation that specialises in detecting landmines and tuberculosis.

Magawa received a gold medal last year from Britain’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals for “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty”.

Mr Malen said the rats have an extraordinary sense of smell that guarantees results.

Additional reporting by the Reuters news agency.

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