The Magawa rat, who was awarded for saving human lives because he was able to find buried mines better than trained dogs, died over the weekend at the age of eight human years. The Belgian-based NGO APOPO informed about it, which once trained him to search for mines and sent him on a mission to Cambodia.
During his nearly six-year career, Magawa searched for mines in the area with with an area of approximately 225,000 square meters, which is equivalent to 42 football fields. After the discovery of more than 100 landmines and other explosives, he retired in June last year.
As part of the training, the rats learn to scratch the mark where they exploded the explosive. This technique, which is not based on scrap metal detection, allows deminers to work much faster than with a metal detector. Magawa was able to inspect the area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes, which would take a person equipped with a metal detector up to four days. APOPO trained Magawa to get her favorite food, such as bananas and peanuts, for each finding.
His health after retirement was good. Aj spent most of last week playing with his usual enthusiasm, APOPO. Over the weekend, however, he had less energy, “he slept more and showed less interest in food,” said the charity. He finally died “peacefully” this weekend.
The British Association for Animal Welfare (PDSA) in September 2020 awarded Magawa a gold medal for bravery in clearing mines in the Cambodian countryside. The PDSA Award is the animal equivalent of the highest civilian award in Britain. Magawa became the first rat to be awarded this prize in 77 years and was one of a host of decorated dogs, cats and pigeons.
During the nearly three-decade-long civil war that ended in 1998, millions of landmines were planted in Cambodia. Their explosions claimed tens of thousands of lives. Four more joined them on Monday: three Cambodian deminers were killed in an anti-tank landmine and a local farmer was killed in a booby-trapped mine.