Of Mice and Mines

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Rats Ahoy!


Rats! No, I'm not cursing out loud rather I am showing my gratitude to these (now) noble creatures. Well, not all rats...just a certain type of rat! The Gambian Pouch Rat has proven itself to be quite a useful mine detecting animal! It is easily trainable, gentle (less excitable), small and light which comes in handy when it's locating mines which is very much still a dangerous job.

APOPO trains sniffer rats to detect explosives and diagnose disease. This unusual idea has been developed into a competitive technology by a group of Belgian and Tanzanian researchers and animal trainers.

Who knew rats could be so useful? Not only are the Gambian Pouch Rats able to sniff out mines but they can also be trained to sniff out diseases such as Tuberculosis, which is still a threat in the developing world. So, the next time you squeal/flinch/run away when you see a rat just remember that out there in the World they are helping us clean up our mess, well, at least the Gambian Pouch Rat is. ;)

Ars Technica, has an excellent article detailing just how "neat" this new method of mine and TB detection is.

Link - via Ars Technica

Related Links: APOPO

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Rats are awesome, I'm very pro-rat. The smaller domestic variety though, as I've never owned a pouched rat. They have so much personality and are so affectionate. Far more than any gerbil or hamster i've ever owned, more like a cat. My rat Pixel went everywhere with me sitting on my shoulder like a parrot (also had a cage though). When he needed to use the bathroom (or just wanted down) he'd poke his nose in my ear (It did take a little training for that, but not much) and I'd let him down in a grassy place for a pitstop. Domestic rats only live 2-5 years though...so sad. :(
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