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Giant Hero Rats Sniff Out Landmines

    It may seem hard to believe, but after decades of war, Cambodia still has an estimated four to six million landmines and unexploded munitions littering its fields, forests and riverbeds. This is a major problem because over 64,000 people have been killed or injured by these explosive remnants.news_256833_0

    The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) has cleared 2.6 million landmines and unexploded ordnance during the past 20 years. They have been looking for a faster and safer way to clear these explosives and the CMAC believes they have found an answer; African giant pouched rats.

    During a recent demonstration, one of these rats was seen scampering between two handlers, running up and down the length of a measuring tape they held between them. Suddenly, the rat stopped, stood on his hind legs and sniffed the air. The rat sensed something nearby. Finally, he put his paws to the ground and started scratching the earth. The rat had just marked the presence of TNT.

    Metal detectors are often used to detect landmines. Unfortunately, these detectors beep for every coin, can and piece of foil found in the ground, as well. Rats may prove to be much more efficient because they are trained to only locate TNT. When the rats scratch the ground to send their signal, there is usually a landmine beneath.

    The rats are fast, too. One rat can search 200 square meters in 20 minutes while a deminer with a metal detector may take 1-4 days to search the same area.ht_bomb_sniffing_rat_100305_main

    “I was amazed when I learned that the rats could sniff landmines,” said Sean Enah, who has over 20 years of experience clearing Cambodia’s minefields. “It’s good news for Cambodia and the people who live near minefields.”