A Tanzanian-born giant pouched rat is set to ‘retire’ after his five-year career of sniffing out landmines.
Magawa, born in 2014 was moved to Cambodia after receiving training from a Belgian non-profit organization APOPO. Since then, the rodent has been helping sniff out landmines in the war-prone zone.
His seemingly successful career saw him bag an award from UK’s PDSA, a veterinary charity, in September 2020 for his exemplary work in clearing more than 225,000 square metres of land.
This, according to AFP, is equivalent to 42 football pitches.
However, 71 detected landmines and 38 items of unexploded ordnance down the line, his employers said that Magawa deserves retirement, as he has “slowed down.”
“Although still in good health, he has reached retirement age and is clearly starting to slow down. It is time,” APOPO said.
Michael Heiman, PDSA’s program manager in Cambodia, said that Magawa will continue doing what he loves to do, eating bananas and peanuts.
APOPO reveals that during his training, Magawa would be rewarded with bananas and peanuts for detecting the chemical compound within explosives. He would alert the experts of any landmine by scratching the earth.
So good was he, that he would reportedly scurry through a piece of land, the size of a tennis court in just 30 minutes, what would take days using a conventional meta detector.
Magawa broke a world record of becoming the first rat to bag the historical PDSA Award, 77 years since it began, “joining an illustrious band of brave canines and felines -and even a pigeon.”
With the “heroic” rat having left a mark in Cambodia, PDSA revealed that 20 newly trained rats had just been accredited with revelant authorities to follow in Magawa’s shoes- detect landmines.
Heiman said that it would be a tough challenge surpassing Magawa’s excellence, saying “he is a very exceptional rat.”