Rat that detected land mines in Cambodia dies in retirement

12 January 2022, 11:44

Magawa
Rat awarded PDSA Gold Medal. Picture: PA

Magawa detected more than 100 land mines and other explosives during his five-year career.

A land mine-detecting rat in Cambodia who received a prestigious award for his life-saving duty has died in retirement, a charity has announced.

Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, died last weekend, according to APOPO, a Belgium-based non-profit group which trains rats and dogs to sniff out land mines and tuberculosis.

“All of us at APOPO are feeling the loss of Magawa and we are grateful for the incredible work he’s done,” the announcement said.

Magawa in action
Magawa in action (PDSA/PA)

Magawa was born in November 2013 in Tanzania, where APOPO maintains its operational headquarters and training and breeding centre. He was sent to Cambodia in 2016.

His death was announced a day after three mine removal experts working for another group were killed by an accidental explosion of an anti-tank mine in Cambodia’s northern province of Preah Vihear.

Almost three decades of civil war that ended in 1998 left Cambodia littered with land mines and other unexploded ordnance that continues to kill and maim.

APOPO’s office in Cambodia posted condolences for the three dead and one wounded from the Cambodia Self Help Demining group.

According to APOPO, Magawa detected more than 100 land mines and other explosives during his five-year career before retiring last year.

“His contribution allows communities in Cambodia to live, work and play without fear of losing life or limb,” said the group.

In 2020, Magawa won a gold medal from the Britain-based People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, considered the highest award for gallantry an animal can receive.

African giant pouched rats are believed to be especially well-suited for land mine clearance because their small size lets them walk across mine fields without triggering the explosives.

Magawa
Magawa won a gold medal from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA/PA)

In retirement in Cambodia’s north-western province of Siem Reap, Magawa was housed in his usual cage, and fed the same food — mostly fresh fruit and vegetables — that sustained him during his active career.

To keep him trim, he was released for 20-30 minutes a day into a larger cage with facilities such as a sandbox and a running wheel.

His death at the age of eight was not unusual for the species.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Joe Biden

Biden issues new warning to Russia over invading Ukraine

George Floyd case

Jury selection begins in US federal trial over killing of George Floyd

Covid Austria

Austrian parliament approves universal vaccine mandate

Capitol riot investigation

Capitol investigation committee requests interview with Ivanka Trump

Entrance to Auschwitz

UN approves resolution to condemn denial of the Holocaust

Afghanistan women's protest

Woman activist arrested by Taliban in raid on her home in Kabul

Antony Blinken

US warns of ‘swift, severe’ response if Russia invades Ukraine

Scene of Liberia stampede

At least 29 people die in stampede at religious festival in Liberia

Novak Djokovic is reportedly preparing to sue the Australian government.

Novak Djokovic 'to sue Australian government for £3m' over deportation

Boris Johnson warned Putin over invading Ukraine

'We stand squarely behind Ukraine' in Russia stand-off, Boris Johnson warns Putin

Antony Blinken and Annalena Baerbock

US and European diplomats meet in Berlin to discuss Ukraine situation

Former Pope Benedict failed to act on child sexual abuse

Pope Benedict 'failed to act' in four child sexual abuse cases, report finds

Audio footage has been obtained from the final conversation between the Texas synagogue attacker Malik Akram and his younger brother Gulbar, who urged his sibling to surrender.

'Think about your kids': Brother's desperate phone call with Texas synagogue attacker

Russian Sukhoi 30 jet

Russia accuses the West of ‘plotting provocations’ over Ukraine

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Former Pope Benedict criticised over handling of sexual abuse claims

Tina Turner at Wembley

Tina Turner and husband buy £56m estate on shore of Lake Zurich