Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Giant Rats That Save Lives

HeroRat
Nicholas Kristof, NYT
APRIL 18, 2015

The Mine-Sniffing Rats of Africa

MALANJE, Angola — I’m walking in a minefield here in rural Angola, tailing a monster rat.

This is a Gambian pouched rat, a breed almost 3 feet from nose to tail, the kind of rat that gives cats nightmares. Yet this rat is a genius as well as a giant, for it has learned how to detect land mines by scent — and it’s doing its best to save humans like me from blowing up.

These rodent mine detectors have been dubbed HeroRats, and when you’re in a minefield with one that seems about right. You’re very respectful, and you just hope this HeroRat doesn’t have a stuffed nose.

I’m here because five years ago, my kids gave me a HeroRat for a Father’s Day present through GlobalGiving.org. I didn’t actually take physical possession (fortunately!) but the gift helped pay to train the rat to sniff out explosives. And now I’ve come to minefields of rural Angola to hunt for my rat.

(More here.)

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