Rat Receives a Gold Medal for Bravery for Saving Lives

A landmine detection rat has been awarded a gold medal for his “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty”. Magawa, a 5-year-old African giant pouched rat, has received a gold medal by the British veterinary charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) for his contribution to detecting undetonated landmines in Cambodia.

Magawa is the first rat to get a PDSA award for bravery and the first non-canine to win the Gold Medal. So far, Magawa has detected 39 landmines and 28 unexploded armaments in his career. It has provided safety to 141,000 square meters of heavily mined ground in Cambodia.

Jan McLoughlin, the director-general of the charity, presented the award in an online ceremony and said, “Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these land mines. 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.”

In the past, thirty animals have received a PDSA Gold Medal, but Magawa is the first rat to get such an award for its bravery.

Magawa is part of the “Hero Rat” initiative operated by the Belgian non-profit APOPO, which is based in the East African country of Tanzania, training rats at least a year to save lives by detecting land mines and tuberculosis across the areas of Tanzania, Cambodia, and Angola. 

These rats are less likely to explode landmines as they walk across fields because of their size. They work for around half an hour a day. They scratch the ground and try to detect a chemical compound within explosives and once they detect a landmine, they scratch the top and alert the human handlers of the danger.

Since 1979, more than 64,000 people have been injured by land mines and other explosives in Cambodia, and more than 25,000 have conferred amputation, according to the HALO Trust, the world’s largest humanitarian land mine clearance charity.

Christophe Cox, chief executive of APOPO, said: “To receive this medal is really an honour for us. I have been working with APOPO for over 20 years. Especially for our animal trainers who are waking up every day, very early, to train those animals in the morning. But also it is big for the people in Cambodia, and all the people around the world who are suffering from landmines. The PDSA Gold Medal award brings the problem of landmines to global attention.”


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