PDSA awards Magawa rat Gold Medal for detecting landmines in Cambodia

Ground level view of a rat crawling through some grass

British veterinary charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) has awarded a Gold Medal to an African giant pouched rat, Magawa. 

They declared Magawa a hero as it saved many Cambodian lives by detecting the landmines. 

“Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women, and children who are impacted by these landmines,” PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin said while commending the services of Magawa.

Magawa is heralded as a hero because it has sniffed about 39 land mines and cleared an area of 141,000 square meters in Cambodia. The first time a rat is awarded such a prestigious accolade for “life-saving devotion to duty.”

“Magawa is a hero rat. We’re thrilled to celebrate his life-saving devotion by awarding him the PDSA gold medal,” PDSA’s Director General Jan McLouglin said in a virtual presentation of the medal.

Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country, had a long history of war and conflicts. The civil wars of the 1970s and 1980s left millions of landmines and explosive materials in Cambodia.

Though Cambodia got assistance from many countries to clear land mines, they could not succeed.   Cambodian Mine Action Center estimated over 6 million hidden land mines in Cambodia.  These explosive remnants of wars are still a threat to people’s lives and kill dozens of people every year.   

Mine -clearing NGO the Halo Trust reported about 25000 amputees in Cambodia since 1979, and the number of deaths is far greater, reaching up to 64000 thousand. 

Magawa was trained by the Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development organization to smell explosive materials. Not only rats but also the organization trains several rodents to detect chemicals that the workers can’t.  

The organization trains the rats for one year, during which they are prepared to detect the ammunition material and send the signal to the workers. 

These rats weigh about 1.2 kg, making them small and light enough to find landmines without exploding them. These rats quickly get a hint of the landmines and send signals to the workers by scratching the mine’s surface.