Heroic rat is an expert at detecting landmines in Cambodia, saving countless lives

We’ve seen many stories of animals like cats and dogs saving the day, but you’ve probably never heard of a rat doing the same. We don’t think of these creatures as being very heroic—in fact, they’re synonymous with being sneaky and untrustworthy.

But one rat has proven that even the smallest creature can make a big difference—and he’s received a major honor for his life-saving work.

The country of Cambodia has a major problem with landmines: millions were placed during decades of war since the ’70s, and there is still an estimated 3 million unfound. These mines continue to cause destruction: over 64,000 people have been severely injured by landmines.

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But some unlikely heroes have stepped up to combat this problem by detecting the mines: rats.

Nonprofit group APOPO has been training rats, known as HeroRATs, to detect land mines. They are perfect for the job because they can quickly find the mines but are too light to set them off.

One of these rats is named Magawa, who proved to be perfect for the job and has been detecting mines for five years. With his excellent sense of smell he sniffs out the chemicals in the TNT, then signals to his handler who disposes the mine, saving people from serious harm.

“He is very special to me,” Magawa’s main handler Malen said, according to the New York Times. “He has found many land mines in his career and saved many lives of the Cambodian people.”

“He is very quick and decisive, but he is also the first one to take a nap during a break.”

Magawa has been the most successful of all the HeroRATs, proving that these little guys can make a huge difference.

And now, he’s been the recipient of a major honor.

Magawa recently became the first rat ever to receive the PDSA Gold Medal, which rewards “civilian acts of animal bravery and exceptional devotion to duty.”

“Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these land mines,” said Jan McLoughlin, the director general of the charity, during the virtual ceremony. “Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.”

“Magawa’s dedication, skill and bravery are an extraordinary example of this and deserve the highest possible recognition.”

Congrats, Magawa! You definitely deserve it. We hope Magawa and the other HeroRATs will continue to thrive in their life-saving work!

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