Human Interest

Magawa the mine-detecting rat retiring after life-saving career

By Eric San Juan

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Jun 7 (EFE).- Magawa the live-saving giant rat is retiring after an “illustrious” five-year career in Cambodia, where he has sniffed out 71 mines and 38 unexploded bombs in one of the most explosives-littered countries in the world.

In his time working for Belgian NGO APOPO, Magawa has helped sweep an area spanning 225,000 square meters, the equivalent of just under half of the Vatican City.

Thanks to his work, local Cambodians can continue with their daily lives without fear of losing life or limb.

Experts believe that six million mines were left behind by conflicts between 1975-98 and that only half have been located.

An estimated 64,000 people have been killed since the end of the 1970s and the Southeast Asian country has the highest rate of amputations per capita in the world — at least 40,000 people out of a population of 16 million.

APOPO said in a statement that Magawa, a giant African pouched rat who was born in Tanzania in 2013 “directly saved the lives of men, women and children who were impacted by hidden landmines and other deadly remnants of war.”

His handler, So Malen, said: “Magawa’s performance has been unbeaten, and I have been proud to work side-by-side with him.

“He is small but he has helped save many lives allowing us to return much-needed safe land back to our people as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. But he is slowing down, and we need to respect his needs. I will miss working with him.”

Magawa is capable of clearing an area of land the size of a tennis court in 20 minutes thanks to his ability to detect the chemical components of unexploded mines and disregard scrap metal.

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