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Veteran demining rat all set to retire to Siem Reap

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Hero rat Magawa was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal in 2020. APOPOS

Veteran demining rat all set to retire to Siem Reap

MAGAWA – the first Cambodian mine-sniffing rat and a gold-medal winner in the UK – will now retire after five years in Cambodia.

Throughout the years, the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) has been training 20 new rats to continue Magawa’s mission.

Magawa, now over seven years of age, was trained by a group of Belgian experts volunteering with APZO, an organisation based in Tanzania.

He was sent to Cambodia at the age of 9 months to continue training before eventually carrying out dangerous demining missions across the country.

Magawa has been called a hero for his role in clearing 71ha of mine-laden land and detecting thousands of unexploded ordnance (UXO) units in the country.

In Septermber of 2020, Magawa won a medal from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals veterinary charity in the UK.

CMAC director-genera Heng Ratana told The Post on June 6 that following his retiremen, Magawa will be kept at a demining centre in Siem Reap where he will help train other rats as he has a great deal of experience.

“Magawa will no longer be actively serving on demining missions, but he will be a training rat because he has a lot of experience. With his help, it will be easier for our staff members to train new rats,” he said.

While Magawa may be retiring, CMAC is planning to set up a new mine-detecting rat team with 20 members who just recently passed their tests, in addition to the existing 20 rats active on demining operations.

“Rats have contributed to the speed of demining, making the operations more efficient because they can detect explosives. UXO and mines always have explosives, but if the casing is made from something other than iron ore like plastic, that makes our metal detectors useless,” Ratana explained.

According to Ratana, Cambodia now has 40 mine-detecting rats carrying out operations or in training with another 16 rats now retired or dead. The remaining unexploded ordnance in Cambodia covers more than 800 sq km of land, an area slightly larger than Singapore in size.

Ratana stated that this area is reduced by about 100 sq km every year through the CMAC campaign, which should make Cambodia landmine-free by 2025 according to national plans.

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