Landmine-clearing rat awarded medal for his life-saving work in Cambodia

  • The Southeast Asian country is full of the explosives which were placed by factions such as the Khmer Rouge, during the civil war
  • Magawa is the first rat to receive the bravery award from British animal charity PDSA
Wong Tsui-kai |

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The charity Apopo trains rats for mine clearing. Photo: Apopo

Cong-RAT-ulations to Magawa, a rat that has been given a medal for his work clearing landmines in Cambodia by a United Kingdom animal charity.

Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, is seven years old and was born in Tanzania. Because he weighs only 1.2kg, he is light enough to not set off the mines. His official job title is whose official job title is a HeroRAT.

Rats are chosen for the task because they are intelligent and able to do repetitive tasks for food, as well as being fast.

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Gold Medal is the highest honour for outstanding animal bravery and exceptional dedication in civilian life. It is inscribed with the words “For animal gallantry or devotion to duty”.

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Over his career, Magawa has found 39 mines and 28 other bombs, and cleared more than 140,000 square metres of land, the size of 20 football fields.

The mine-clearing rats are trained for a year by charity Apopo to sniff out a chemical in explosives and to scratch at the mines, notifying people to clear them.

It is the first time the charity has awarded the medal to a rat.

There are millions of mines buried in Cambodia, with no one sure of the exact number. Mines there have killed and wounded more than 64,000 people to date.