Magawa, a brave rat who helped sniff out landmines in Cambodia, has died aged eight.
The giant African pouched rat was awarded a gold medal from the PDSA, a UK veterinary charity, back in 2020. With more than 100 landmines and other explosives detected across his career, he was the first rat in history to receive the award, dubbed the animal equivalent of the George Cross.
He’s still the most successful ‘HeroRAT’ to be trained by animal nonprofit APOPO, and last year, he took his well-earned retirement. Sadly, Magawa has since passed away.
APOPO confirmed Magawa ‘passed away peacefully’ over the weekend, and spent his last days ‘playing with his usual enthusiasm’. However, ‘he started to slow down, napping more and showing less interest in food in his last days’, as per BBC News.
‘All of us at APOPO are feeling the loss of Magawa and we are grateful for the incredible work he’s done… his contribution allows communities in Cambodia to live, work, and play; without fear of losing life or limb,’ the charity wrote in a statement.
‘It is thanks to all of you that Magawa will leave a lasting legacy in the lives that he saved as a landmine detection rat in Cambodia. Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts, for your support during this difficult time.’
Magawa was bred in Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture, before moving to Siem Reap in Cambodia in 2016 to begin his career. At peak performance, he was capable of searching a field as large as a tennis court in 20 minutes. While heavier than a normal rat, weighing around 1.2kg, he was still light enough to not trigger any landmines.
‘Magawa’s performance has been unbeaten, and I have been proud to work side-by-side with him. He is small but he has helped save many lives allowing us to return much-needed safe land back to our people as quickly and cost-effectively as possible,’ his handler Malen earlier said.
Rats are taught to detect a chemical compound within the explosives and scratch the top to alert their human handlers. ‘Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these landmines. Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people,’ Jan McLoughlin, PDSA director general, earlier said.
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