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Magawa the Hero Rat

Jan. 19, 2022, 12:33 p.m. by Karuwaki Speaks ( 311 views)

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Rodents, particularly rats and mice, feature in literature, films, cartoons, myth and legends.Rodents are hugely prevalent throughout our audiovisual culture. Hollywood A-list actors, from Willem Dafoe to Hugh Jackman, have all had a go at voicing animated rats.

Even TikTok is filled with rodents, with creators using the hashtag #rattok to show off their furry friends.They occupy a limited space in society where they are both pets and pests and are instantly recognizable as both these things.Any animal can be anthropomorphized, but rodent protagonists dominate Hollywood, rivalled only by cats and dogs who hold an unequivocally positive status within society.

Perhaps the largely negative perception of rodents offers an opportunity to create stories with rodent protagonists that parallel the experience of marginalized and persecuted communities in the human world.Rats and mice are highly intelligent rodents who excel at learning and understanding concepts.

Rats can be trained to act in movies just like cats and dogs, but working with a pack of rodents on a film set requires someone with a lot of organizational skills and close attention to detail and a rat trainer needs to be able to identify a rat's personality, strengths, and weaknesses to be able to cast them in the best possible role.

We all know lots of famous mice from Mickey & Miney Mouse to Danger Mouse, Pinky and the Brain, Stuart little, Jerry, Banksy's rat, Scabbers the rat in JK Rowling's Harry Potter books but today's feature story is about Magawa the hero rat!

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The famous mine-clearing rat who was awarded a gold medal for his heroism has died at the age of eight. Magawa died on January 8th, 2022, about six months after retirement.

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Cambodia is known for being the site of U.S. bomb droppings during the Vietnam War and for the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime, which also planted land mines from 1975 to 1979. A lasting legacy from past conflicts, much of Cambodia is still littered with landmines and Cambodia has one of the highest numbers of amputees caused by unwittingly standing on a mine.

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Magawa the rat, retired from his job detecting landmines in 2021.

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Magawa weighed around 1.2kg & was 70cm long which made him a big rat but he was still small and light enough, to not trigger mines if he walked over them.

In a five-year career, the rodent sniffed out 100 landmines and dozens more unexploded items in Cambodia, where around six million landmines are strewn in the landscape making him APOPO’s most successful Hero RAT to date.

Magawa was able to cover an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes, something that would take four days using a conventional metal detector.His contribution allows communities in Cambodia to live, work, and play; without fear of losing life or limb. With more than 40,000 people have lost limbs to explosives, the role of Magawa in saving lives cannot be undermined.

In September 2020, Magawa was formally presented with a PDSA Gold Medal – the highest award for gallantry an animal can receive and the first rat to get worldwide recognition.

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Last year, when Magawa retired, HeroRAT Ronin took up the baton as the new adoption rat.African giant pouched rats are intelligent and easy to train — Magawa began training from a young age.

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Magawa is an African giant pouched rat (Cricetomys ansorgei) that was born in Tanzania at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in 2013.The Belgian based NGO APOPO's scent detection animals, nicknamed 'HeroRATs' help to rid the world of landmines and tuberculosis.

Since 2000, APOPO has developed its operational headquarters, training and breeding center at SUA where all the landmine detection rats are born & trained.

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Though they have terrible eyesight, the rats are ideal for such work, with their extraordinary sense of smell and their size – they are too light to trigger the mines. When they detect a mine, they lightly scratch atop it, signaling to their handler what they've found.

Their reward: happy with a banana & peanuts.Meanwhile, slow and inaccurate detection methods make tuberculosis the world’s most deadly infectious disease. 10 million new people contract TB every year, 3 million go undiagnosed, and 1.8 million die from the disease.

Like the battle against land mines, the fight against TB—which claimed 480,000 lives in Africa in 2012, 58,000 of them in Mozambique, according to the World Health Organization—needed an innovative, rapid, and affordable detection technique.Training rats to detect TB is a relatively new endeavor for APOPO, and they started using TB rats in Tanzania in 2008 and Mozambique in 2013. Currently, the animals work in 21 medical centers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's capital, and double-check 75 percent of potential TB samples from medical centers in Mozambique.

Magawa's legacy will continue to live on and If there’s one thing we can learn from Magawa, it’s never to underestimate the intelligence of these tiny creatures. They may have actual pea-sized brains, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from them.


Comments (8)

user
AnonymousUser 5 months, 1 week ago
Nice
user
AnonymousUser 5 months, 1 week ago
Such an interesting story!
user
AnonymousUser 5 months, 1 week ago
How amazing is that...I always thought Vietnam and Cambodia always had Siamese cats in temples !.
user
AnonymousUser 5 months, 1 week ago
Very interesting story!!
user
AnonymousUser 5 months, 1 week ago
Nicely written, didn't know much about these intelligent creatures,no wonder rats are connected to Lord Ganesh in Indian mythology as bahana, thanks for the beautiful and unconventional article.
user
AnonymousUser 5 months, 1 week ago
Very interesting! Thanks for bringing forward such a topic!
user
AnonymousUser 5 months, 1 week ago
Magawa is a cute hero!
user
Mini 5 months, 1 week ago
Interesting article!