Magawa, the mine-detecting rat, awarded prestigious animal award

Emma Curtiss, Staff Reporter

Magawa, the mine-detecting rat, was honored with a PDSA Gold Medal, an award  that honors animal heroes, in Cambodia on September 25th, 2020. 

Magawa is a 5 year old rodent who was trained by the Belgium-registered charity AOPO. APOPO is a non-profit organization which trains giant pouched rats from the south to detect tuberculosis and landmines. 

Magawa is the only rat that has been able to sniff out landmines. He has saved lives by searching for landmines in areas that have yet to be explored and determines the dangers or risks of possible death or injury. 

 He was trained to detect TNT, a chemical compound found in explosives. Magawa ignores scrap metal which makes finding the landmines much quicker and easier. 

Over the past 5 years Magawa has found 39 land mines and 28 incendiaries that have not yet exploded. Magawa has cleared more than 1.5 million square feet within a 4 year time span making the land safe for the community.In a 20 minute span Magawa is able to search a field that is approximately the size of a tennis court. 

“It would take a person with a metal detector between one and four days,” said a representative from Apopo.

Since 1979 more than 64,000 people have been injured by explosives and landmines in Cambodia. Magawa’s work saves people’s lives directly because each time he discovers a new landmine he reduces the risk of possible injury and even death. 

Magawa was honored with a PDSA Gold Medal for his bravery, talent, and his determination in completing his duties. Magawa is the first rat to have ever been rewarded this medal. 

PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin stated that “ Magawa’s dedication, skill and bravery are an extraordinary example of this and deserves the highest possible recognition.”    

Magawa’s career may soon come to an end. APOPO’s estimate is that “Hero Rats” work in the field for approximately 4 to 5 years and are then allowed to retire.. 

 There are currently 124 HeroRATs working for APOPO. There are multiple jobs that these rats do including detecting landmines, tuberculosis, and research and development.