Magawa, a famous name in landmine identification and disposal, passed away quietly at the grand old age of eight years, which is rather remarkable for an African giant pouched rat (Cricetomys ansorgei). Magawa’s exploits, which earned him the PDSA Gold Medal – the highest honour for gallantry an animal can receive – in 2020, will live on through his discoveries of over 100 landmines and other explosives during his career. Rats have a poor reputation over the world, but Magawa’s home, APOPO, has long praised the intelligence of these intelligent rodents.
The purpose of APOPO’s smell detecting rats and dogs, dubbed “HeroRATs” and “HeroDOGs,” is to eliminate landmines in Cambodia and diagnose tuberculosis so that the afflicted area and communities can be made safer.
Magawa, one of their many brave rats, rose to international prominence after being the first rat to obtain the PDSA gold medal for his achievements, making him the poster rat for landmine detection. He hung up his mine-detecting boots in 2021 (with a big retirement celebration) after a successful career and continued to play with vigor into his golden years.
APOPO states that after enjoying his eighth birthday, a respectable age for an African pouched rat, he began to slow down in the weeks leading up to his death. They reminisce on the life of their most successful HeroRAT to date in the aftermath of his death. In a statement, APOPO said, “His service helps communities in Cambodia to live, work, and play without fear of losing life or limb.” “Every breakthrough he made reduced the chance of harm or death for Cambodians.”
APOPO teaches rats to use their strong sense of smell to identify landmines. Their mission: to protect approximately 60 million people living among the relics of past hostilities in nations ranging from Cambodia to Zimbabwe. APOPO has been able to clear land with the support of brave rats like Magawa, allowing future generations to enjoy it without fear.
To carry on their work, they rely on donations and adoptions, which you can learn more about here. “It is because of all of you that Magawa will leave a lasting legacy in the lives he saved in Cambodia as a landmine detector rat,” APOPO added. Magawa, you small legend, rest in peace.