Magawa, The Landmine Rat is an international hero. His work is far from over

Magawa, a African giant kangaroomay never know about his legacy. He sniffed out more than 100 landmines and other explosives in Cambodia during his five years working for international charity APOPO based in Tanzania, allowing them to be safely defused.

Magawa died on January 8 at the age of 8, about six months after taking a break from mine hunting.

For his work, he was awarded a gold medal in 2020 by the British veterinary charity Hospital for Sick Animals (PDSA) — the highest civilian award an animal can receive, and It was the first time a rat received such an honor. PDSA said at the time he was able to make 35 acres of land safe and habitable for Cambodians. The award that turned Magawa become an international hero.
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Magawa is one of hundreds of “hero mice” that have been trained by APOPO since the 1990s to detect mines. In 30 minutes, these rats can scan large areas like tennis courts for any presence of explosive chemicals. A man with a metal detector it will take four days to do the same job. While other animals can be trained to detect mines, APOPO found rats best suited for the job due to their small size – weighing less than 3 pounds, they are too light to place mines.

Courtesy of APOPOMagawa and other giant African kangaroos are trained for 9 to 12 months to sniff out landmines. Due to their light weight, they will not trigger a mine if they happen to run over one.

But Magawa’s popularity helped introduce the world to the life-saving work that rats are doing, and served as a reminder to the constant threat of landmines in many parts of the world.

The organization’s chief executive, Christophe Cox, said: “He has become an ambassador for APOPO highlighting our work. “We get a response from the tiniest, unimaginable villages in every corner of the world, so that’s very important – not just for us, but for those affected. by landmines, in Cambodia and elsewhere”.

Marked by decades of civil war until the late 1990s, the Southeast Asian country ranks among the world’s most land-grabbing nations: A report from Cambodia’s Mine Action Authority in July 2021 showed that undetected explosives have killed and injured some 65,000 people since the fall of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. Various factions, including the Khmer Rouge, Vietnamese forces, and American troops, laid these mines through the country during the war, and many still do. The PDSA says Cambodia has the highest number of people muted by landmines per capita in the world, with more than 40,000 people.

The APOPO program in Cambodia has so far detonated 6,400 landmines. However, Cambodia’s Mine Action Service reports that more than 300 square miles of land are still contaminated by mines, while 275 square miles are still unexploded cluster munitions and explosives and another 200 square miles of materials. Explosions left over from the war.

According to APOPO, Cambodia is just one of 59 countries in the world whose untreated mines pose a threat to communities. Other countries such as Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique are also facing the problem of demining.

Cox believes that Magawa’s international popularity can help secure additional funding for the organization to continue its work. According to Cox, the majority of the organization’s funding comes from foundations, while the rest comes from community support through “adopting” demining rats, government support and research grants assist.

Magawa’s stellar track record has made him one of the top rats to be “raised” — meaning the organization generates more funding for the training of other rats, as well as for investment in research. and develop.

With more funding, Cox says the organization could research new uses for the rat’s extremely sensitive noses, including sniffing out smuggled illegal wildlife products, detecting soil contamination and even discovered survivors buried under rubble during times of disaster.

But APOPO’s work has been cut off in clearing mines in Cambodia, Cox said. A nation of 17 million people — as a signatory to the Ottawa convention banning the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (AP) — has only until December 31, 2025 to clear it up. explosive lands — remnants of a war that continues to claim the lives of unsuspecting inhabitants to this day.

Earlier this week, local media reported that three mine removal specialist died and one was seriously injured when an anti-tank mine exploded in a village in Preah Vihear province, northern Cambodia. The the victim is old from 26 to 32 years old.

“The people there are now affected by landmines, they weren’t even born at that time [the mines] Cox said. Magawa, The Landmine Rat is an international hero. His work is far from over

Aila Slisco

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