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Magawa in Rat Retirement
News Bytes 06/8/2021 23 Comments

After five years of sniffing out landmines and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia, Magawa is retiring. A bold member of a Belgian nonprofit group, Magawa is an African giant pouched rat. (See Mine-Sniffing Hero Rat.)

More than 60 million people worldwide continue to be threatened by land mines and unexploded ordnance (weapons, ammunition). In 2018, landmines and other remnants of war killed or injured 6,897 people. For over 20 years, the nonprofit group APOPO has used scent detection animals to find and disarm landmines.

In Dutch, APOPO stands for “Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling.” The acronym translates to “Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development” in English.

Some of APOPO’s most valuable workers are “HeroRATs.” Thaaaat’s right—rats. The HeroRATs sniff the ground for unexploded mines. When a rat makes a find, it scratches the dirt. Then a human deminer with a metal detector confirms the rodent’s findings. A human could take up to four days to search an area that takes a rat about 30 minutes.

APOPO also trains its HeroRATs to sniff out tuberculosis.

Magawa is APOPO’s most successful HeroRAT. Last year, Magawa won a British charity’s top award for animal bravery—an honor previously bestowed only on dogs.

HeroRAT Magawa has cleared more than one and a half million square feet of land. That’s equal to about 20 soccer fields! The rat has sniffed out 71 landmines and 38 items of unexploded ordnance, according to APOPO.

God created rodents with excellent scent-detecting skills. They will also perform a task over and over for food rewards. Through research, APOPO officials discovered that African giant pouched rats’ size allows them to walk across mine fields without triggering the explosives. They can zip around much more quickly than people too. Those traits suited them well for landmine clearance.

Magawa is part of a team of rats bred for the purpose of detecting and clearing mines. He was born in Tanzania in 2014. In 2016, Magawa moved to Cambodia’s northwestern city of Siem Reap—the home of the famed Angkor temples—to begin his celebrated bomb-sniffing career.

In retirement, Magawa will live in the same cage as before and will follow the same daily routine. But Magawa won’t have to head out to the minefields anymore, says Lily Shallom, an APOPO spokeswoman. Magawa will have daily playtime, regular exercise, and health checks. For 20-30 minutes each day, the rat will work out in a larger cage equipped with a sandbox and a running wheel.

Shallom says Magawa will eat the same food too: mostly fresh fruit and vegetables—with the occasional small sun-dried fish for protein and imported pellets for vitamins and fiber.

In addition to performing rat patrol in Cambodia, APOPO also works with programs in Angola, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. The group clears millions of mines left behind from wars and conflicts. None of APOPO’s rats have ever died as a result of their detection work.

“Although still in good health, [Magawa] has reached a retirement age and is clearly starting to slow down,” APOPO officials say. “It is time.” For Magawa, the rat race is over.

(Cambodian landmine detection rat, Magawa, wearing his PDSA Gold Medal, in Siem, Cambodia. PDSA via AP)

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Most recent comments

1st Comment

He sure did a lot for a rat! XD I wonder how the people get the mines out of the ground without them exploding? Like, the rat runs around and finds one. Then what? They people walk across the area where they know there could be others and risk the possibility of getting blown up while they dig it out? That does not seem logical!

Biden's Speech...

Biden's Speech...

"Friends, this country that we live in, that I was falsely elected to, *cough* I mean, I was elected to, is a terrible sham. It's a horrible country we live in. Look at the prosperous countries of China and North Korea. China has very few children, and North Koreans didn't even know that man had landed on the moon. *news media mutes him midsentence, and claims it's an error* Whereas here in America, not only did we know man landed on the moon, we put them there! How terrible is that? We were so incredibly selfish that we couldn't let any of the nice Communist countries go first. I mean, I doubt they could get anything in the air anyway, but they still- *sound system squeals, and the sound crew shrugs at Biden* And, now, that awful disease, capitalism, is destroying our country. *leans forward and goes into 'sympathetic mode'* Have you ever gone to a restaurant, and they charged you ten dollars for food? TEN (italics) dollars. It takes a lot of hard work to earn ten dollars. Instead, let the government pay for your food, and it will cost you nothing! And, we'll raise taxes thru the roof to do it! Wait, what? I didn't say that! *Biden plucks teleprompter out of his ear and throws it on the ground* And, now, one of those horrible capitalists has hacked my teleprompter, just to ruin my speech. Will I be stopped? *leans forward and listens for an answer* "No!" the crowd responds. Biden nods. "That's right. Anyway, as I was, yeah, well, uh.........yeah, anyway, we're going to fix this when I get elected to the Senate." Struck with sudden inspiration, Biden stands tall and shouts, "Shall we be free?" "No!" the people shout. "I can't hear you!" Biden tries to shout. "NO!" the people shout. "The universal spirit or whatever you call it bless you all and bless China!" *Biden falls backwards, and Secret Service have to rush him off for immediate medical care for overexerting himself.

*Teleprompter hacker snickers

*Teleprompter hacker snickers as he runs off*


little did Biden know that the teleprompter hacker was also the medic...

Biden wakes up bleary eyed. "what happened" he says. suddenly Remembering the cheese sandwich he had for breakfast. "you suffered from a broken hip." says the medic, hiding a smile. "oh i will be cheese-uh okay I mean. this isn't the first time that i broke my... my. what did I break again, wait where's my lunch?" Joe asks. " that doesn't mater." the medic said. the secret service member gives the man a glance. the medic sighs. this is going to be a long ride he thinks to himself.

@ All

He's (the rat, not Biden, XD) is so cute!

@ Hesperus and Ethan

Very funny and quite clever.

Belwyn, yes!!!!

Belwyn, yes!!!!
Riley, oh good point!
I feel like this article has been here before...or was that a different rat getting retired?


Well, there was one about these landmine rats, but not one about them retiring. Our dog ran away, could y'all pray that we find her (in one piece?)

@ Addie

Okay thanks. Yes, I will be praying!

this is Kaewyn

@ berwyn: i TOTALLY agree. he is so cute!
@ Addie: i will most currently pray for your dog.

@ Addie L.

I'll pray!

@ Kaewyn

Just btw, you said currently instead of certainly. Just a heads up! :-)

@ Kaewyn

And u spelled our name Berwyn instead of Belwyn. (as ya'll can see, I'm a great big sister!)

@ Bella

You most certainly are. I actually thought Kaewyn meant it to say 'currently'.

15th comment!!!!

How can you guys think that rat is cute?? I don't see it...
@ Addie of course I'll pray!
@ Hesperus & Ethan I agree with Bethy: that was clever and funny! :D

@ Abigail F

Well, I mean, if you look at him like he's ugly, then he really is, but if you look at him as if he's cute, then he is. The medal makes him more cute I think.

He's sort of cute. I would

He's sort of cute. I would not want one for a pet though.


Yeah I will pray!

@Everyone who prayed for our dog

Our dog came back this evening! She seems fine, she was just panting really hard, so if she doesn't stop by tomorrow, we will probably take her to the vet. Thanks for your prayers! God does great things!

@ Alaina H


@ Addie



Our dog is doing fine! We won't have to take her to the vet. Thanks for everyone's prayers!

@Addie L


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