Heroic hamsterrat may retire after career in landmine detection

Magawa, the Cambodian hamster rat, who once received a gold medal for his heroism, stops his job at the landmine investigation service. During his career, the rodent snooped 71 landmines and dozens of unexploded items and gathered together in Cambodia.

According to his owner, the seven-year-old Gambiahamsterrat is getting a little slower as he gets older, reports BBC. And in doing so, the employer wants to respect the needs of the brave animal. So it‘s time for a well-deserved pension.

After years of armed conflict, the soil of Cambodia has literally turned into a minefield. There were supposed to be around six million explosives. Dozens of people are killed or injured every year. Magawa was trained in Belgium by the charity Apopo. The institution has been educating the animals as Herorats since the 1990s, so they can be used to track landmines.

After a year of training, the animals get their diploma. Last week, Apopo reported that โ€œa new generation of young rats had been judged by the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) and passed with flying colors.โ€

Magawa stays a few weeks to recruit the new recruits and get them on their way. โ€œMagawa is a stunner in his work and I am proud to have worked with himโ€, says supervisor Malen. โ€œHe’s small, but he saved many lives. We want to be able to return the country safely to the Cambodians as quickly and efficiently as possible.โ€

Magawa is small and light enough to keep the mines from exploding when he walks over it. The rats are trained to detect a chemical compound in the explosives, which means they ignore scrap and can search for mines faster.

Once they find an explosive, they scratch at the top to warn their human colleagues.

Magawa can search a field the size of a tennis court in just 20 minutes โ€” something that, according to Apopo, would take a person with a metal detector between one and four days.