After five years of sniffing landmines and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia, Magawa is retiring.
The African giant rat has been the most successful rodent trained and supervised by a Belgian nonprofit, APOPO, to find landmines and warn his human handlers so the explosives can be safely removed. Last year, Magawa won a British charity’s largest civilian award for animal courage – an honor so far reserved exclusively for dogs.
“Even though he is still in good health, he has reached retirement age and is clearly starting to slow down,” said APOPO. “It’s time.”
TAIWAN TRAIN CRASH: AT LEAST 48 KILLED IN DEADLY RAILWAY DISASTERS IN COUNTRY HISTORY
Magawa has cleared more than 1
While many rodents can be trained to detect odors and will work on repetitive tasks for food rewards, APOPO decided that African giant rats were best suited for clearing mines because their size allows them to cross my fields without triggering the explosives – and does it much faster than people. They also live up to eight years.
Magawa is part of a cohort of rats bred for this purpose. Born in Tanzania in 2014, he moved in 2016 to Cambodia’s northwestern city of Siem Reap, home to the famous Angkor temples, to begin his career with the bombs.
Upon retirement, Magawa will live in the same cage as before and follow the same daily routine, but will no longer go out to the minefields, said Lily Shallom, a spokeswoman for APOPO, who was contacted by telephone at the organization’s operational headquarters in Tanzania.
He gets the same food, has playing time every day and gets regular exercise and health checks. He mostly eats fresh fruits and vegetables, Shallom said, supplemented with small sun-dried fish for protein and imported pellets for vitamins and fiber. For 20-30 minutes a day, he is released into a larger cage with amenities such as a sandbox and a scooter.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
APOPO is also working on programs in Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to clear millions of mines left behind from wars and conflicts.
More than 60 million people in 59 countries remain threatened by landmines and unexploded ordinance. In 2018, 6,897 people killed or wounded landmines and other war remains, the group said.