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Mine-sniffing rat Magawa ends years of labor in Cambodia


Five Years After Sniffing Land Mines and Unexploded Ordnance in Cambodia, Magawa is Retiring

Phnom Penh, Cambodia — After five years of sniffing land mines and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia, Magawa is retiring.

The African giant pouched rat is the most successful rodent ever trained and supervised by a Belgian non-profit, APOPO, to find landmines and alert their human operators to safely remove explosives.

According to APOPO, Magawa has cleared more than 141,000 square meters (1.5 million sq ft), the equivalent of about 20 soccer fields, with 71 land mines and 38 objects snuffed out.

And for the first time ever, it won the British charity’s top civilian award for animal bravery last year, an honor so far reserved exclusively for dogs.

Magawa is part of a group of rats bred for this purpose. He was born in Tanzania in 2014, and in 2016, moved to Cambodia’s northwestern city of Siem Reap, home to the famous Angkor temples, to begin his bomb-sniffing career.

APOPO also works with programs in Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to clean up millions of mines left behind by wars and conflicts.

More than 60 million people in 59 countries are at risk from landmines and the no-explosion ordinance. In 2018, 6,897 people were killed or injured in landmines and other remnants of war, the group says.

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