Mine Magawa sniffing landmines puts an end to years of hardship in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AP) — Magawa retires after five years of detection of land mines and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia.

The giant pouched rat is the most successful rodent trained and supervised by the Belgian nonprofit APOPO, finding land mines and alerting human handlers so that explosives can be safely removed.

According to APOPO, Magawa has cleared more than 141,000 square meters (1.5 million square feet) of land, equivalent to about 20 soccer fields, and examined 71 mines and 38 unexploded ordnance.

And for the first time last year, it won the highest civilian award for animal bravery from a British charity. This is an honor given only to dogs so far.

“He’s still in good health, but he’s reaching retirement age and is clearly starting to slow down,” APOPO said. “It’s time.”

Many rodents can be trained to sense odors and perform repetitive tasks for food rewards, but APOPO has determined that the giant pouched rat is best suited for landmine clearance. Much faster than humans. Also, they live up to 8 years.

Magawa is a member of a cohort of mice raised for this purpose. Born in Tanzania in 2014, he moved to Siem Reap, a city in northwestern Cambodia where the famous Angkor Temple is located, and began his bomb detection career in 2016.

APOPO is also working with programs in Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to clear millions of mines left behind in wars and conflicts.

More than 60 million people in 59 countries continue to be threatened by land mines and unexploded ordnance. In 2018, land mines and other war debris killed or injured 6,897 people.

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