The Cambodian Mine Action Centre’s mine-sniffing Belgian rat has become a global sensation.
The rat named Magawa recently received a medal from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) in England for locating 67 landmines and unexploded ordnance in Siem Reap and Preah Vihear.
Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana posted on Facebook that Magawa found 39 landmines and 28 units of unexploded ordnance in Siem Reap and Preah Vihear.
It is the first gold medal given to a rodent.
“I want to say that Cambodia is not only famous for using rats in mine clearance, but our mine-sniffing dogs are also ahead of the world,” he wrote.
Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnede Product Ontwikkeling (Apopo) Belgium programme manager Michael Heiman said on Sunday that Magawa is one among many mine-sniffing rats.
Apopo Cambodia finds mines in partnership with CMAC.
Magawa arrived in Cambodia from Argentina in 2016. The rat has since been working in Siem Reap, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear for six years.
Heiman described Magawa as a hard-working rat with high commitment.
Apopo’s website said the organisation is happy to declare that Magawa is a hero rewarded for bravery.
An African giant rat born in Tanzania in 2014, it was trained to smell explosive ordnance using its nose by Apopo rat trainers in Argentina.
When Magawa smells the chemicals in mines it will give a sign to its operator. The operator then knows the rat has found a mine and clears it.
PDSA chairman John Smith said in a short video clip that Magawa has discovered 67 landmines and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia, making him a more than worthy candidate for the gold medal.
During his career, Magawa has helped clear over 141,000sqm of land.
Since the 1970s, it’s estimated that four to six million landmines were laid in Cambodia alone with around three million of those still unfound. Hidden mines have caused 64,000 casualties thus far.