Magawa died peacefully last weekend at the age of eight, a Belgian NGO said in a statement. According to her, the rat was in good health and spent the whole weekend playing, but at the end of it she seemed tired, asleep and had less appetite.
“The whole of Apopo is feeling the loss of Magawa. We are grateful for the amazing work he has done, “the organization added.
Rats have a well-developed sense of smell and can detect chemical constituents in explosives. They ignore various metal fragments and search for mines faster than humans. When he encounters one, he alerts his human co-worker, who accompanies them. The training of rodents to search for landmines and unexploded ordnance usually takes a year and the animals receive a certificate after their completion. The work, which would take a man with a metal detector four days, took about half an hour for the male rat.
Magawa was rewarded for sniffing the mine: most often banana or peanut.
Photo: Cindy Liu, Reuters
Magawa was trained by AFP as a reward for his favorite delicacies, bananas and peanuts. Born in 2014 in Tanzania, he has worked in Cambodia since 2016. During his career, he unveiled 71 landmines and 38 unexploded ordnance, for which the British veterinary charity PDSA was the first rat to award him honors for courage and devotion. He retired in June this year.
Cambodia is one of the world’s most mine-infested countries, according to Mag International, a network that specializes in demining in more than 20 countries. Landmines in Cambodia are a remnant of the fighting between the Khmer Rouge, the government and other actors, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. Since 1979, explosives have killed or injured over 64,000 people there.