New batch of rat recruits ready to sniff out landmines

Leave it to the pro: A mine detection rat sniffing for landmines in an area being demined in Preah Vihear province. — Reuters

THE country has deployed its next generation of rat recruits to sniff out landmines as part of efforts to boost de-mining operations in a country plagued for decades by unexploded ordinance (UXO).

Twenty African giant pouched rats were recently imported from Tanzania and had undergone intense training.

“They are all easy to work with and don’t care who their handlers are,” said handler So Malen during an exercise on Friday for seven recruits in Preah Vihear province.

Scarred by decades of civil war, Cambodia is one of the most heavily landmined nations, with over 1,000sq km of land still contaminated.It has among the highest number of amputees per capita, with more than 40,000 people losing limbs to explosives.

The new rat batch replaces a recently retired group that included Magawa, who found 71 landmines and 28 UXOs during his five-year career, said Apopo, an international group that specialises in detecting landmines and tuberculosis.Magawa received a gold medal last year from Britain’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals for “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty”. — Reuters

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