Magawa the landmine detection rat wins top UK animal bravery award

Courage fur the ages! Rat’s medal for bravery

An African giant pouched rat won a prestigious award Friday for his work detecting land mines in Cambodia.

When they go near a tea egg containing the scent of TNT, the explosive substance in landmines, they will hear a click and receive a food reward.

An undated handout picture released by United Kingdom veterinary charity PDSA September 25, 2020 shows Magawa, an African giant pouched rat wearing his gold medal received from PDSA for his work in detecting landmines in Siem Reap, Cambodia. To date, Magawa is said to have successfully detected landmines for an area of approximately 141,000 square meters, equivalent to an area of 20 football fields. The rats, which use their superior sniffing skills to identify the chemicals in landmines, are also more efficient at the job than human-held metal detectors that beep at every scrap of metal.

Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, has found 39 mines and 28 unexploded bombs on an area of more than 140,000 square yards. An area similar to the size of a tennis court takes four days for humans to detect landmines manually.

He is the first rat in the charity's 77-year history to receive such an award.

"We're thrilled to celebrate his life-saving devotion by awarding him the PDSA gold medal", PDSA's Director General Jan McLouglin said in a virtual presentation of the medal, which was specially created to fit on Magawa's work harness. "I have been working with APOPO for over 20 years", Christophe Cox, chief executive of APOPO, said as quoted by The Guardian.

"But also it is big for the people in Cambodia, and all the people around the world who are suffering from landmines", he added. "The PDSA Gold Medal award brings the problem of landmines to global attention".

They work for around half an hour a day, in the early morning.

It is estimated that four to six million landmines were laid in Cambodia alone since the 1970s, with around three million that are still undiscovered.

When Magawa detects a landmine by the chemicals used in it, he signals the location to his handler - and they trust his accuracy because his sense of smell is so good.

"Magawa's work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these landmines", PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin was quoted as saying by Britain's Press Association.

The PDSA Gold Medal is "the highest honour for outstanding animal bravery and exceptional dedication in civilian life", according to its website. "We are thrilled to award him the PDSA Gold Medal".

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