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Smart rats are now trained to reach and rescue earthquake survivors!

Rats are being trained to reach earthquake survivors with microphone to allow them to reach the rescue teams (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@ApopoScience)

Usually, rats are detested, treated with disdain and killed yet they have their uses. That is what a group of scientists are proving as they train these rodents to rescue people who are trapped during earthquakes.

In this innovative project on which a scientist from Glasgow, Scotland, Dr. Donna Kean is working, rats are being trained to reach through the debris of tremors with small backpacks on them with microphones which will allow survivors to communicate with the rescuers.

Till now, a group of seven of these rodents have been instructed to respond to the beeping sounds. With prototype backpacks with a mic in them, they have been sent into mock debris. Work is being carried out to make specialist backpacks that will have both video and audio equipment and location trackers to facilitate communication with the survivors during the real earthquakes.

Based in Morogoro, Tanzania, Dr Kean has been working on this project for the last one year called “Hero Rats”.

Talking about the project, she told Newsweek: "Rats would be able to get into small spaces to get to victims buried in the rubble. We have not been in a real situation yet, we have got a mock debris site. When we get the new backpacks we will be able to hear from where we are based and where the rat is, inside the debris. We have the potential to speak to victims through the rat.”

Having studied ecology at Strathclyde University, Dr. Kean has done her PhD from Stirling University and has been enamoured by the ability of the rats whom she described as “sociable” to learn fast.

Training of 170 rats is underway and these creatures will be sent to Turkey which is earthquake prone, where they will be put to work with rescue teams to locate victims and survivors.

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