A heroic rat who found fame helping to clear landmines from the Cambodian countryside has died aged eight.
Magawa detected more than 100 mines and other explosives as he scoured about 225,000 square metres of land – the equivalent of 42 football pitches – over the course of his career.
The giant African pouched rat – originally from Tanzania – made headlines last year when he was awarded a gold medal for his efforts.
He used his ‘amazing sense of smell’ to sniff out unexploded mines which had been left behind after the country’s bloody decade-long civil war.
He retired in June and was still in good health and spending most of last week playing with his usual enthusiasm, APOPO – the charity which trained him – said.
His keepers noticed that towards the weekend ‘he started to slow down, napping more and showing less interest in food in his last days.’
‘All of us at APOPO are feeling the loss of Magawa and we are grateful for the incredible work he’s done,’ the group said.
APOPO trained Magawa to detect the chemical compounds in explosives by rewarding him with tasty treats – his favourites being bananas and peanuts.
He would alert staff that he’d found something by scratching the earth.
The creature was able to cover an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes, something that would take four days using a conventional metal detector.
In September 2020, Magawa won the animal equivalent of Britain’s highest civilian honour for bravery.
He was the first rat to receive a medal from British veterinary charity PDSA in the 77 years of its awards, joining an illustrious band of brave canines, felines – and even a pigeon.
Millions of landmines were laid in Cambodia during the country’s nearly three-decade civil war which ended in 1998, causing tens of thousands of casualties.
Three Cambodian deminers were killed on Monday by anti-tank landmines that exploded as they tried to remove them, just 20 minutes after a man burning vegetation on his farm was killed by war-era ordnance in the same village.
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