Earlier today, a mine-sniffing rat in Cambodia was awarded a medal for his “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty.” A British charity called The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals awarded Magawa with the honor.
The five-year-old giant-pouched rat was able to discover 39 mines, along with 28 pieces of explosives that did not detonate and clearing over one million square miles in four years. The director general of the charity, Jan McLoughlin said, “Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these land mines. Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.”
Jan continued to say, “Magawa’s dedication, skill and bravery are an extraordinary example of this and deserve the highest possible recognition.”
A 2019 Congressional Research Service report found that there are an estimated five million land mines that are thought to have been placed in Cambodia due to battles fought in the country during the Vietnam War and some internal conflicts. Thanks to Magawa and the “Hero Rat” initiative, which is run by a Belgian non-profit called APOPO.
Magawa’s ability to sniff out TNT, the chemical compound which detonates explosives, makes him faster than any metal detector that would be able to find pieces of scrap metal. He’s also able to scrounge the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes.
His main handler, Malen, praises the rat’s hard work ethic in a statement to People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, saying, “He is very quick and decisive. But he is also the first one to take a nap during a break.”
“He is very special to me,” Malen said, “He has found many land mines in his career and saved many lives of the Cambodian people.”