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Tanzania’s Heroic Rodent

Many animals have been awarded the Dickin Medal, established 77 years ago to reward non-human creatures for bravery in battle. But giant African pouched rat Magawa is the first rodent to win, for his discovery of 39 land mines across the former battlefields of Cambodia. Rats are skilled land-mine detectors, as they’re small, fast and can be trained to scratch the top of any mines they sniff out, allowing human handlers to dispose of the ordnance safely. Magawa alone has cleared nearly 35 acres. Bred and trained in Tanzania, Magawa has an affinity for bananas and peanuts. He was trained by APOPO, which trains rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis, and he is the first rat in the charity’s 77-year history to receive such an honour. Christophe Cox, the chief executive of APOPO, said Magawa’s medal was “an honour” for the charity and its animal trainers.