Phnom Penh: Cambodia has deployed its next generation of landmine-detecting rats, as part of a huge effort to rid the country of unexploded ordnance or UXO. 20 African Giant Pouched Rats have recently been imported from Tanzania and undergone intense training. Rat handler, So Malen, who works with the landmine-clearing NGO, APOPO, says the rats are easy to work with.
Scarred by decades of civil war, Cambodia is one of the world’s most heavily landmined countries, with more than 1,000 square kilometres still contaminated. It has among the highest number of amputees per capita, with more than 40,000 people who have lost limbs due to explosives.
The new rat recruits replace a recently retired group that included multiple award-winning Magawa, who found 71 landmines and 28 other UXO during his five-year career. Magawa was born in Tanzania in 2014, and was brought to Siem Reap in 2016 to begin his bomb-sniffing career.
He received a gold medal the UK-based People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals last year for his “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty”.