“Our Rats are Not Trained as Kamikaze to Detonate landmines. They are Far Too Precious to Lose”
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It costs as little as €2 to place a landmine, but it can cost as much as €700 to clear one. That difference underscores the challenge in clearing antipersonnel mines. Some traditional methods, such as using metal detectors and trained dogs, are still expensive and time consuming. But in southern Mozambique a more cost and time-effective approach is being used with remarkable success: rats.
Bart Weetjens, a Belgian product engineer with a lifelong love of rodents, first thought about it after reading a scientific article on the olfactory skills of gerbils in detecting explosives. If dogs were being used to find landmines, why couldn't rats do the same? Weetjens, whose work centred on making prosthetics sustainable, decided instead to focus on detecting the landmines that cause those injuries. Africa has the largest number of landmine victims in the world, so he established himself in Tanzania, where his NGO, known as APOPO, is still based.
Sniffing out tuberculosis
Rat smelling sputum samples.