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Cassandra Kim


Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, was born in Tanzania in November 2013. He was a part of the “HeroRAT” initiative run by the Belgian nonprofit APOPO, which works across Southeast Asia and Africa, training rats to detect land mines and tuberculosis. After a year of receiving specialized training, where he and other rats are trained to smell a chemical compound within the explosives. He was moved to Siem Reap in Cambodia to begin his career as a bomb-sniffing rat. There are believed to be between 4-6 millions land mines laid in Cambodia during decades of conflict from between 1975-1998 and they have caused over 64,000 casualties. The rats work 30 minutes a day in the early morning and when they find a mine, they signal to their handler by scratching at the earth above it. Their light weight means they can avoid detonating mines, so there is minimal risk of injury. They can search an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes. The same work would usually take a person with a metal detector four days and be significantly more dangerous. Over the course of a 5 year career, Magawa cleared over 144,000 square meters or approximately 35 acres of land. He discovered over 100 land mines and other pieces of unexploded ordnance.


Which by far surpasses any other “Hero rat” to date. Magawa’s work directly saved and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these landmines. Magawa’s achievements were honored in 2020 when he received a gold medal by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a British charity, for his lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty. He was the first rodent recipient of the award in the charity’s history of 77 years. 

Magawa died of old age at 8 in January 2022