The British charity veterinary organisation PDSA has decided to award a rat named Magawa its Gold Medal for “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty”, as the rodent has been trained to detect landmines in Cambodia.
Of the 30 animals to receive the award, Magawa is the first rat. The seven-year-old rodent is over 70 centimetres tall and weighs 1.2 kilograms. He has been trained by the Belgian charity APOPO, which has been raising animals known as Hero Rats since the 1990s to detect mines. After a year of training, the animals are certified.
“To receive this medal is really an honour for us. I have been working with APOPO for over 20 years,” Christophe Cox, chief executive of APOPO, said as quoted by The Guardian.
In total, Magawa has discovered 39 landmines and 28 undetonated explosives.
Cambodia, a nation of over 16 million people, is also home to to six million landmines. According to the non-governmental organisation for demining, HALO Trust, over 64,000 people have died since 1979 in land mine explosions in the country. Additionally, Cambodia has the highest number of mine amputees per capita in the world: more than 40,000 people have lost limbs due to the deadly explosives.