A rat, a gold medalist for his heroism, retires from his job as a mine detector within weeks.
During his five-year career in Cambodia, Rat Magawa uncovered 71 landmines and dozens of unexploded ordnance.
But Malin, who is responsible for the seven-year-old giant African rodent, said it had “slowed down” as he got older, and said she wanted to “respect his needs”.
It is believed that the number of mines buried in Cambodia, in Southeast Asia, is up to six million mines.
Magawa has been trained by the Abobo Foundation, a charity registered in Belgium and based in Tanzania, which has been raising and training animals to detect mines since the 1990s. The foundation gives the animals a certificate of their ability to detect mines after a year of training.
Abobo Foundation said last week that a new batch of young rats had been evaluated by the Cambodian Mine Action Center, and had passed the tests with “unparalleled” success.
The foundation said Magawa will remain in his job for a few weeks, during which he will “guide” the new rats and help them adjust to the conditions of their job.
“Magawas performance has been peerless, and I’m proud to have worked alongside him,” Malin said.
“It is small in size, but it has helped save many lives, allowing us to reclaim a lot of safe land for our people as quickly and at the lowest possible cost,” she added.
And last September, the rat Magawa was awarded a gold medal by the PDSA Animal Foundation, for his “dedication to his work in saving lives”. With this, Magawa became the first rat to receive this medal from the charity, which was founded 77 years ago.
Magawa weighs 1.2 kilograms and is 70 centimeters long. Although this is a large size compared to all the mice species, the Hero Rat is still small and lightweight enough that mines will not explode if they pass over them.
The rats are trained to track the chemical compound from which the explosive device is made, which means that they ignore scrap metal that may be buried underground, which enables them to search for mines quickly. As soon as they discover a mine, these rats scratch its surface to warn their human partner.
Magawa has the ability to search a piece of land the size of a tennis court in 20 minutes, an area where the Abobo Foundation says it can take one to four days for someone using a metal detector to detect mines.