Cambodia is thought to be home to between three and five million undetected landmines and humanitarian aid workers have tried a host of ways to find them before an innocent person sets them off. An NGO called the HALO Trust reports that landmines have resulted in more than 64,000 casualties and around 25,000 amputees since 1979.
In an attempt to safely put an end to the scourge of landmines, a Belgium-registered charity called Apopo has been raising what they call heroRATs to sniff out the bombs ahead of time. The tiny little activists are too light to set off the mines, meaning they can safely scurry across the terrain and — with a little training — show local bomb squads where any landmines or other unexploded materials that might be hiding.
And now, a true hero arises. Magawa is a seven-year-old African giant pouched rat with an unusual knack for the job. In his career, he’s detected 39 landmines and 28 unexploded munitions. Magawa’s quick too — he can cover the space of a tennis court in just 20 minutes, something the BBC says it would take a human three or four days to do. For his courage, skill and life-saving efforts, Magawa has been awarded the PDSA Gold Medal — an award that’s been given to about 30 animals for their live saving work. Magawa is the first rat to win such an award. Congratulations and well-deserved, little guy.
In the video below, you can learn more about Cambodia’s landmine crisis and watch Magawa doing what he does best: finding mines and saving lives.
“To receive this medal is really an honour for us,” Apopo chief executive Christophe Cox told the Press Association news agency. “But also it is big for the people in Cambodia, and all the people around the world who are suffering from landmines.”