WATCH — This rat is retiring after 5 years of sniffing out landmines

Published 2021-07-08 08:57

Magawa is a HeroRAT in Cambodia


You’ve probably heard of Spider-Man and Wonder Woman, but have you heard of Magawa?

Magawa may not have his own comic book or movie series, but he is a superhero in real life. 

Not only is he dedicated to saving innocent lives, but he has worked for the past five years for nothing more than food and shelter.

Oh, and one more thing — Magawa is an African giant pouched rat.

Large rat eating a nut from a human's hand.

Magawa on the job. (Image credit: PSDA)

Now, after half a decade of removing landmines in Cambodia, a country in Southeast Asia, Magawa is ready to retire.

Nose to the ground

According to Apopo, the charity that trained him, Magawa has found 71 landmines and 38 other unexploded explosives (UXOs).

These devices are usually left over from past wars and conflicts, but are hidden underground.

By finding them, Magawa is making sure people who step on that land aren’t injured or killed by the explosives.

In September of 2020, Magawa was awarded a gold medal for bravery by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), making him the first-ever rat to receive this award.

Close up of large rat with blue medal around its neck.

Magawa wearing his gold medal for bravery. (Image credit: PSDA)

Trained to sniff out danger

Magawa’s incredible nose can smell chemical compounds in explosives that are hidden underground.

He was trained by the charity Apopo in Tanzania, a country in Africa, alongside other giant pouched rats, labelled HeroRATs by the group. 

HeroRATs, like Magawa, are trained to use their sense of smell to detect landmines.

Other HeroRATS are trained to detect tuberculosis, a deadly disease.

Woman holding large rat with blue medal around its neck.

Magawa and his handler, who works with him. (Image credit: PSDA)

Rats are better than humans at the job

Magawa weighs only 1.2 kg, which means he is light enough to walk over active landmines without triggering them to explode.

When he detects an explosive, Magawa will scratch at the ground, alerting his  human colleagues so they can remove and dispose of the mine safely.

Rats like Magawa can search the area of a tennis field in 20 minutes, a feat that according to Apopo would take a human several days.

Watch the video to learn more about Magawa and how HeroRATs use their incredible noses to save lives:



About the Contributor

Quinn Murphy
Quinn Murphy
CBC Kids News Contributor
Quinn Murphy lives in Vancouver, B.C., with her parents, sisters and dog, Massi. She loves to spend her days photographing and writing about animals. One day she hopes to make a difference in wildlife conservation.

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