Rats, long the bane of humanity's (save several exceptions) existence, seem to be trying to finally make nice.
Cambodia was ripped apart by civil war and genocide during the '60s and '70s, and land mines were often the weapon of choice for the Khmer Rouge regime. But even after the rifles are lain down and the war crime trials begin, mines can remain live for decades. In fact, over 63,000 people in Cambodia have been injured by land mines since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, and about 19,000 have been killed.
Cambodia has one of the highest amputee rates in the world, so clearing mines is still a high, and dangerous, priority.
Enter APOPO's HeroRATS. That's right, the words "hero" and "rat" just appeared next to each other.
Yes, we shuddered a little bit too.
APOPO is a Belgium-based NGO that trains rats to detect land mines in recovering war zones like Mozambique, Angola, Vietnam and Cambodia. Bart Weetjens, APOPO's founder, first began breeding African giant pouched rats to detect the volatile weapons in 1997.
The rats are light so their weight doesn't set off the mines, and they've been trained to scratch at spots where they detect them. They can point out danger zones much more quickly than a human with a metal detector can, and the cost of training a rat is much lower in terms of money and risk. Worldwide, these rats' creepy little paws and noses have helped clear over 13,000 mines and saved countless lives.
Here are the rats at work in Southern Africa:
Well done, rats of the world. You've almost earned our respect.
Like this story? Click the button below to share!