Wild rats don't usually get much appreciation from humans. Most people recoil from rodents in horror. And if one is spotted in or around their home, exterminators are quickly called in. But what if rats could save lives? Well, guess what? They can, and they are hard at work, doing so right now. APOPO, a Belgian NGO, has been training giant African pouched rats for years now, teaching them how to effectively sniff out land mines. The rats have an excellent sense of smell, and can detect TNT even when it is buried under the ground! The HeroRats, as they are called, are so good at their job, it takes them only 20 minutes to search 200 square meters, an area it would take humans with detectors a full 25 hours to clear. The African rats are big at about 30-40 cm long, excluding their tails. They weigh as much as 1.5 kg. Luckily for them though, their weight means none have died in the line of duty, as to detonate, a mine requires a weight of 5kg or more. Read on for more on these amazing creatures…
In 2013, there was an average of nine mine-related casualties per day.
HeroRats are now hard at work, clearing mines in Africa.
Most people think of rats as being dirty and stupid, but they are actually extremely intelligent, sensitive and easy to train. They are also very hard workers.
Rats have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, which they rely upon in the wild, as their eyesight is not that great.
HeroRats are more effective at de-mining than their human counterparts.
African giant pouched rats are very sociable, intelligent, clean and respond to training methods well.
The rats are easy to tame and cheap to source, breed, feed and maintain.
The rats wear sunscreen to protect them from damaging, cancer-causing rays.
If a rat does develop cancer, it is operated on.
It takes 6,000 euro to train each rat.
The rats, which can live up to 8 years, usually work for 4-5 years. If they lose interest, they are allowed to stop.
Retirement is spent eating fruit and yummy treats to their heart's content.