Landmines are a major source of trouble in war torn regions, and lead to loss of life and limb for many people worldwide. There are methods to find out and remove these unexploded landmines, but they put the people doing the job at a risk, and sometimes may also not be foolproof. APOPO is a non-profit organization working to remove unexploded landmines in parts of Africa, and they utilize a very interesting method to do that.
The organization trains and employes African Giant Pouched Rats to sniff out the troublesome landmines, while ensuring a very low level of risk. These rats are called HeroRATS and they are currently at work sniffing out landmines in Mozambique, though they may soon get to display their skills in Zambia, Congo and Angola as well.
As you’d guess, training rats for the job isn’t an easy task and takes a long time. The rats are trained to associate the smell of explosives with a treat, which may be a banana or a peanut. HeroRATS actively work to find out the explosives, and when they do, they simply sit and scratch themselves. The mine can then be safely exploded, and the rat given its reward. A group of rats is set to work on a defined area, so it can be thoroughly checked. Since their weight isn’t enough to trigger the landmine, surprize explosions don’t occur.