Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, received the award from UK charity PDSA – The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals – for his life-saving bravery and exceptional devotion to duty. He is the first rat in the charity’s 77-year history of honoring animals to receive the medal – joining a line-up of courageous dogs, horses, pigeons and a cat. The medal is now recognized worldwide as the animals’ George Cross, and Magawa is its 30th recipient.
Born in Tanzania in 2014, he grew up at a training and research center run by Apopo, a non-profit organization that trains rats to save lives by detecting landmines and tuberculosis. Magawa learned how to detect the smell of explosives using his nose, and completed nine months of training before moving to Siem Reap in Cambodia in 2016, where he met his new handler, Malen. He is now known as Herorat Magawa, the official job title of Apopo’s detection rats.