For the first time, one of Britain’s highest animal honors has been awarded to a rat. The animal has detected dozens of land mines in Cambodia and is believed to have saved lives.
Magawa is a Tanzanian-born African giant pouched rat who has been trained by the nonprofit APOPO to sniff out explosives. With careful training, he and his rat colleagues learn to identify land mines and alert their human handlers, so the mines can be safely removed.
Even among his skilled cohorts working in Cambodia, Magawa is a standout sniffer: In four years he has helped to clear more than 1.5 million square feet of land – an area about the size of 20 soccer fields. In the process, he has found 39 land mines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance.