These trained rats can effectively search 200 square meters in 20 minutes, saving plenty of time and thousands of lives.
Rats are a rodent you either adore or are can’t stand… But soon their stereotypical nature may be discarded, as a Belgian-based NGO is training the little critters to do a job that has potential to save thousands of lives every year, worldwide.
APOPO, the Belgian NGO, has been training giant African pouched rats to detect land mines since 1997; and soon, they believe, the rodents will be put to work detecting explosives elsewhere around the world.
Since the NGO was formed, it has been training rats to effectively search 200 square meters in 20 minutes. This is a stark difference from the 25 operational hours it takes humans with mine detectors to do the same.
And what may be most impressive is that no heroic rats have yet been harmed in the line of duty. Again, this is a grand contrast from the 9 mine-related human casualties reported per day in 2013.
As shared on the APOPO website, the average cost of training a rat for this task is about 6,000 Euro, or $6,590 USD.
As an average mine requires something weighing 5 kg (11 lbs) or more to detonate, and the heaviest operational male rat does not exceed 1.5 kg (3.3 lb), this is a task in which a rat’s size definitely weighs in its favor. (Punny, we know.)
It’s also great to know that the NGO is caring for its rats, given the amount of danger they come close to experiencing.
Sunscreen is applied to the rats’ ears to prevent skin cancer, and once a rat is no longer keen to work or is too old (average length 4-5 years), it is retired and permitted to live out the rest of its natural life. (Which apparently includes eating a lot of fruit…)
No doubt this occupation beats being a lab rat.
Named HeroRats, these rodents are just that. You may soon hear about one of these little guys saving lives in the near future!
As shared on the APOPO website, detecting landlines isn’t the only impressive talent these rats have: they can also detect Tuberculosis in patients!
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