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Magawa the life-saver rat who detected landmines passes away

Having saved thousands of lives by detecting hidden landmines in Cambodia, Magawa the pouched rat, died at the age of eight

The well-known rat Magawa, who hunted landmines in Cambodia and was awarded a gold medal for his life-saving work passed away peacefully at the age of eight.

This giant African pouched rat hailed from Tanzania and during his lifetime, he helped clear mines from nearly 225,000 square metres of land, which equals 42 football fields.

Following detection of more than 100 landmines, Magawa retired last year in June.

The Belgian charity APOPO which announced Magawa’s demise said: “All of us at APOPO are feeling the loss of Magawa and we are grateful for the incredible work he's done.” He was in good health and spent most of his time playing and it was only towards the weekend that he slowed down, spending more time sleeping. “He started showing less interest in food in his last days.”

Magawa had been trained by APOPO to find out the chemical compounds in explosives, rewarding him with tasty treats and his favourites were bananas and peanuts. On finding the landmine, he would alert the deminers by scratching the earth.

What made Magawa amazing was the fact that he could cover an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes, which for a conventional metal detector would have taken four days.

For his work, Magawa was awarded in September 2020, the animal equivalent of Britain's highest civilian honour for bravery. He was the first rat to receive a medal from British veterinary charity PDSA in the 77 years of the awards, joining an illustrious band of brave canines, felines — and even a pigeon.

Cambodia during its three decades of civil war had seen millions of landmines laid out and even after the strife ended in 1998, they continue to kill and maim innocent people who step on them unknowingly even today.

Also read: African rats help strife-torn Cambodia to sniff out dangerous landmines