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The Giant Rats Helping To Clear Landmines

The Giant Rats Helping To Clear Landmines

21st October 2015
(c) A-Z-Animals

In the aftermath of many wars including the Vietnam war in the late 1970s, much of the rural land in Cambodia still today is unusable due to the sheer number of unexploded land mines that are thought to be left hidden in the ground. In fact, around half of people there believe that land mines have restricted their livelihood in some way.

Detecting unexploded land mines is a dangerous and time-consuming task as every blip received by hand-held metal detectors has to be carefully examined. Dogs are often trained to help with the searches and although this is known to be an effective method, it is a costly process to both train and transport them.

Things however, are looking brighter on the horizon as there has been a big breakthrough by a nonprofit organisation in Belgium (known as APOPO)who have been successfully training the cat-sized African giant pouched rats to sniff out TNT and therefore locate landmines.

The small size and lightweight bodies of the rats mean that they themselves do not set the landmines off if they walk over them, ensuring that these little critters are simply not being sent off to their death. They are so efficient that one African giant pouched rat is thought to be able to search an area over 2,000 square feet in just 20 minutes (which would take a person up to four days).

Since 1997 when APOPO was founded, these incredible creatures have helped to detect 13,200 landmines which can then be cleared from Cambodia but also from minefields in Tanzania, Mozambique and Angola.

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