A landmine detection rat, whose work in Cambodia has transformed the lives of the country’s citizens, has been awarded the PDSA Gold Medal* for his life-saving bravery and devotion to duty.
Magawa is a giant pouched rat, trained to detect landmines by charity APOPO. Within his career as a landmine detection rat, he has discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance. These successful missions have made him the charity’s most successful HeroRAT. During his career he has helped clear over 141,000 square metres of land (the equivalent of twenty football pitches), making it safe for local people.
What’s special about Magawa is he is the first rat in the charity’s 77 year history of honoring animals to receive a PDSA Medal – joining a line-up of brave dogs, horses, pigeons and a cat.
Cambodia estimates that between 4 and 6 million landmines were laid in the country between 1975 and 1998, which have sadly caused over 64,000 casualties. Every discovery Magawa makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.
Commenting on the award, PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin, said “Magawa’s dedication, skill and bravery are an extraordinary example of this and deserve the highest possible recognition. We are thrilled to award him the PDSA Gold Medal.”
Magawa was trained by APOPO in Tanzania, a charity that trains rats to save lives, Magawa – an African Giant Pouched Rat – detects landmines and other unexploded remnants of war, which blight the landscapes of Cambodia, where he now lives and works.
HeroRAT Magawa was trained to detect the chemical compound within explosives, Trinitrotoluene (TNT) and alert human deminers to its presence. Because he completely ignores any scrap metal lying around he is much faster at finding landmines than the conventional method of using a metal detector. Magawa can search the area of a tennis court in 30 minutes, something that would take a human with a metal detector up to four days.