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   xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Dec 15 02:38 AM

Dec 15, 2009: Rats, The Good Kind

Not Willard or Ben, these are good rats. In fact they're hero rats, to people that live with the day to day terror of landmines.

Giant pouched rats are not what spring to mind immediately when conversation turns to the global issue of unexploded landmines. However, Bart Weegens, from Belgium has found a low-technology answer to the continuing issue of unexploded mines. A childhood interest in the animals came to mind when he was musing over possible solutions and this led to an extraordinary development.

Giant Pouched Rats are only distantly related to the nasties we hate.
In Africa they're sometimes kept as pets but more often raised as food.

Initial funding for APOPO was in Belgium. This was given by the Belgian Directorate for International Co-operation. When the rats proved successful in terms of their training it was decided to switch the whole operation to Tanzania in East Africa. There they could be trained in near-to-real conditions and so the team is now based in Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania. The training there proved successful and it was while this was happening that Bart thought of another use for the HeroRATS as they were now called. It had been discovered that the rats could detect tuberculosis in human sputum (the stuff you cough up when you have a cold). Research began on this in 2004.
Unlike dogs, the rats aren't heavy enough to set off the mines.
That's good because it takes a year to train them.

The HeroRATS are currently deployed in Mozambique where they have enabled over one thousand families to reclaim their land. They have also helped with clearing areas so that power lines can be passed through so bringing electricity which would not otherwise have been possible to over ten thousand local citizens. It is hoped that they will soon be deployed to Zambia, Congo and Angola as well, but negotiations are still underway. APOPO is actively looking for demining partnerships globally, not just in Africa.

casimendocina  Tuesday Dec 15 03:06 AM

This was amazing stuff. There was a story about this on Dateline about a month ago. Will have another go at finding the link and post ASAP.

Qice  Tuesday Dec 15 12:10 PM


Cloud  Tuesday Dec 15 12:21 PM

I've seen this on tv--animals are amazing, aren't they?

Nirvana  Tuesday Dec 15 12:54 PM

Wait til PETA and the HSUS finds out about this!

Glinda  Tuesday Dec 15 12:55 PM

Originally Posted by Cloud View Post
I've seen this on tv--animals are amazing, aren't they?
Better'n most people, that's for sure!

freshnesschronic  Tuesday Dec 15 04:28 PM

That's awesome!!!

Gravdigr  Tuesday Dec 15 04:36 PM

Originally Posted by Qice View Post
Yeah! I know! It's like they were made to fit a hotdog bun.

Cloud  Tuesday Dec 15 04:46 PM

We should send the PETA people over there to de-mine the fields instead. Save the animals!

Qice  Tuesday Dec 15 04:47 PM

Originally Posted by Gravdigr View Post
Yeah! I know! It's like they were made to fit a hotdog bun.

Trilby  Tuesday Dec 15 04:52 PM

Tha' reet rats wearing tartan, so he is!!

DanaC  Tuesday Dec 15 05:22 PM

i like rats. Always have. Don't much like it when they unexpectedly invade my home... but I still think they are adorable and fascinating creatures.

ZenGum  Tuesday Dec 15 06:49 PM

Our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-etc-grandparents were pretty much rats. A little respect, people.

footfootfoot  Tuesday Dec 15 10:03 PM

Whose behind is the giant rat of Sumatra?

Gravdigr  Thursday Dec 17 03:44 PM

Originally Posted by Brianna View Post
Tha' reet rats wearing tartan, so he is!!

TheMercenary  Thursday Dec 17 05:11 PM

Rat bombs! Strap a little nuke to them and whammy!

Shawnee123  Thursday Dec 17 09:21 PM

Originally Posted by DanaC View Post
i like rats. Always have. Don't much like it when they unexpectedly invade my home... but I still think they are adorable and fascinating creatures.
Me too. In fact, my first thought was (Flowers For) Algernon, which is what I named my white rat I trained in a Skinner fashion for a psych class in college. Sadly I think Algernon became snake food, eventually. I started the adoption process but it was rudely interrupted.

He would crawl up my arm and sit on my shoulder and put his little nose on my cheek. I swear!

jinx  Thursday Dec 17 09:30 PM

Originally Posted by Shawnee123 View Post
(Flowers For) Algernon,
Adding that to the boy's reading list, thanks for the reminder.

Shawnee123  Thursday Dec 17 09:33 PM

It's a great one! Fascinating, start to finish...I bet he loves it.

glatt  Friday Dec 18 08:55 AM

Good call. I forgot how good that one was.

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