How rats become heroes in Africa
Rats have a keen sense of smell, which can be used to detect target scentsAPOPO
HeroRATS can sniff out both metal and plastic-cased landminesAPOPO
From a young age, the rats learn to socialise with humansAPOPO
Rats learn to recognise the explosives through positive reinforcementAPOPO
HeroRATs do not weigh enough to detonate the pressure-activated landminesAPOPO
Researchers ensure the rats stay healthy with play time and a balanced dietAPOPO
The rats need little veterinary care and are resilient to many diseasesAPOPO
The rats are tested thoroughly before being sent out to the fieldsAPOPO
African giant pouched rats can be trained to sniff out the explosives in landmines. Belgian non-governmental organisation APOPO is using the huge rodents to assist in a programme that aims to eradicate mines from Mozambique by the end of this year.
There are currently 59 countries around the world that contain landmines or other explosive remnants of war. These hazards prevent development and economic growth long after conflict ends.
The mine detection rats, also called HeroRATs, are usually tethered to a guide rope suspended between two handlers. They are then used to methodically sweep a demarcated hazardous zone, scratching at the ground if they smell explosives.