Magawa dies at 8: Heroic rat sniffed out land mines and helped save lives

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Magawa, the hero rat, received the medal for his good work in the service of humanity.

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Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. The Magawa, an African giant pouched rat that was trained to locate land mines, was renowned for its prowess. During his career, he located more than 100 landmines and explosives in Cambodia, where traces of past conflicts are lurking dangerously in the ground.

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The non-profit Apopo, which breeds and trains rats like Magwa, announced his death in a statement on Tuesday. He turned 8 in November. Apopo said, “Magawa was in good health and spent most of the past week playing with his usual enthusiasm, but towards the weekend he began to slow down, take more naps and show less interest in food in his final days.”

Born in Tanzania, Magawa began his explosive-sniffing career in Cambodia in 2016 and retired in 2021. He was one of a group of rodents called herorats. Magawa was the most successful working rat in the program, earning Prestigious PDSA Gold Medal in 2020, He was the first rat to receive the honour, which recognizes animals for bravery and devotion to duty.

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Magwa’s legacy lives on as Apopo’s rat program continues. “Cleaning up mines is intense, difficult, dangerous work and demands accuracy and time. This is where Apopo’s animal detection system can increase efficiency and cut costs,” the group said. The intelligent animals, while large for rats, are light enough that they don’t accidentally trigger mines.

According to the National Pouched Rat SocietyAnimals have a lifespan of up to eight years. Apopo said that Magawa died peacefully.

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