Rats to the Rescue! (And these are some VERY BIG rats!)

Throughout the world, places that have been involved in war and/or civil strife often have large minefields that still need clearing. In 2013, it was estimated that there was a global average of around nine mine-related deaths every day. The situation is especially dire in Africa.

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Typically, clearing a minefield involves men in body armor walking in very precise lines with metal detectors. 

 Anything (from a rusty nail to an old ammo cartridge) that sets the detectors off must be investigated before moving on. A new method of bomb detection using rats, however, is flipping this process on its head.

A Belgian NGO called APOPO has developed a way to train African pouched rats (named for the storage pouch in their cheeks) to sniff out bombs quickly and safely.

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They used this rat because it has an incredibly fine-tuned sense of smell and a long lifespan (8-9 years) to yield returns on the nine months of training they undergo.

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They’re called Hero Rats, and not one has died in the line of duty since the program started in 1997.

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The average mine requires 5 kg (roughly 11 pounds) of weight to trigger an explosion, but even the biggest of these rats are only around 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds).

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Since they’re trained to sniff out explosives exclusively, they aren’t distracted by other metal objects the way human minesweepers are

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They can effectively search 200 square meters in less than 20 minutes.

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A team of humans would need around 25 hours to do the same job.

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Since they’re in the African sun a lot, the Hero Rats get sunscreen to keep them cancer free.

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If a rat does get cancer, it receives full medical treatment.

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The rats are “paid” in avocados, peanuts, bananas and other yummy, healthy treats.

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After about 4-5 years on the job (or whenever they lose interest in working), they’re allowed to retire.

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Retirement consists of eating all the tasty fruit their little hero hearts desire.

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original Source: email from RN NZ thanks 17 JUL 2015

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Watchman

pseudonym: Ball-peen Hammer Green

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