March 19, 2010

Finally, A Good Use for Rats

From a online news article: "For quite some time, dogs have been one of the main tools used to detect land mines. However recently, there is a new animal that is proving to be just as useful in sniffing out landmines and other unexploded ordinances-rats. The non-profit APOPO, based in Tanzania, has been training rats for mine detection and is currently putting them to work in Mozambique to clear minefields left over from conflicts in the 1960s, 70s and 90s. The rats wear harnesses attached to a wire held on either end by a handler. The rats then run up and down the attached wire, and each time the rat reaches the end of the wire, the handlers move slightly in one direction, until the rat has meticulously inspected the entire section. The rats are trained to detect the smell of TNT, and to start scratching and digging when they find something. They are then called over by their handlers and given a tasty reward, and the mine can be removed."

I guess there is finally one good use for rats here in Mozambique!

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