Rats save human lives.
Meet the Hero Rats who love to play hide and seek amongst landmines and unexploded bombs, and treasure hunt for positive TB samples.
"Apopo, a Belgian charity is harnessing the sociability, enthusiasm for repetitive tasks, love of bananas and acute sense of smell of the African Giant Pouched rat to uncover killers.
Working in Mozambique and Tanzania (with plans to establish operations in Colombia and South East Asia) Apopo has already cleared large areas of unexploded ordinance and detected TB in hundreds of samples missed by more costly conventional testing"
"Rats Sniff Out Danger in War Zones, they may be pests in a house, but in a war zone, these rats can be lifesavers.
Trained rats can sniff out TNT in landmines. The rodents are trained through Pavlovian conditioning: a click sound to signal a food reward whenever they make the correct detection. It takes nine months of hard work before a rat is deployed for mine detection.
A baby rat in a tiny red and black harness twitches its pointed nose incessantly, probing a grassy field where it is being trained by a pioneering Dutch NGO to smell out deadly landmines.
Other rats trained under the same scheme have already helped clear large swathes of land in neighboring mine-infested Mozambique.
Babette, the two-month-old baby, walks unsteadily across the weedy patch followed by two trainers rolling a bar that teaches her to go back and forth across the patch in straight lines.
Light, with an acute sense of smell and easily motivated by food rewards, giant African pouched rats have been found to be highly effective in mine detection by APOPO, the Dutch non-governmental organization that launched the training project -- the first of its kind -- in this Tanzanian town.
The rodents are trained to detect the TNT in landmines through Pavlovian conditioning: a click sound to signal a food reward whenever they make the correct detection.
Training begins at four weeks old when the baby rats are exposed to humans to rid them of their fear of people and new surroundings, after which they are taught to associate a click sound with food.
Once that is achieved, they are then trained to distinguish TNT scent from other smells. When they successfully distinguish it, the click is sounded and they are given a bit of banana, thus reinforcing the link between positive TNT identification and food.
In all, it takes nine months of painstaking on- and off-field training for a rat to be deployed for mine detection.
"This work is not easy," recounts trainer Abdullah Mchomvu, holding a rat cage under his left arm. "You have to be patient. Sometimes I get frustrated, but then again I tell myself these are animals." But "this work saves lives," he added.
It takes two de-miners a day to clear a 200 square-meter (2,150 square-feet) minefield, but if they work with two rats they can sweep it in two hours.
"Detection is the most difficult, dangerous and expensive part of mine action. Since rats are much easier to train than dogs, rats in this environment are much more appropriate," said Bart Weetjens, the founder of APOPO. "They are very effective. We have very high success rates. So far they have helped re-open almost two million square meters (21.5 million square feet) of land" in Mozambique.
Despite their contribution, rats are more often seen as vermin that spread disease and destroy harvests.
"Rats absolutely have an image problem. People don't like them and that is one of our biggest struggles," said Weetjens. "We are trying to change that perception. Rats are very sociable, very intelligent highly likable creatures."
Weetjens said the next frontier would be to use the "hero rats" to sniff out narcotics or to search for survivors of disasters such as earthquakes or collapsed buildings."
11 minute Video of hero rats at work in Mozambique.
Scientists Using Giant Rats to Diagnose TB"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. This video demonstrates the use of sniffer rats to detect tuberculosis in human sputum samples. This method is far more cost-effective and efficient than other methods, including using lab technicians."
Here is how they are trained:
"Dogs of War"
"Dogs of War" are deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan to assist in finding bombs, lost soldiers.
- Bomb squads prefer Labradors. The dogs start training when they're puppies.
- These military dogs save lives and boost morale among troops.
A group of U.S. Marines and a bomb-sniffing dog maneuver around a building in Mian Poshteh, Afghanistan.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
August 19, 2010: Maliha, the three-year-old dog found horrifically abused. Maliha's story was featured on Global News earlier last summer after rescue groups were told that her head was covered with a bag, and she was beaten with sticks by a group of people.
March 2, 2011 update - Message from Maliha’s Foster Family – "There is no good way to deliver the following message. Despite the best efforts of everyone involved – Maliha’s surgery to repair the holes in her mouth was not successful.
Maliha is still Maliha, she is healing from the surgery and doesn't know anything has gone wrong. She had holes in her mouth before and she still has them now - her personality and her attitude haven't changed. Now we must play out the hand she has been dealt and make the best of Maliha’s reality.
It is now up to us to use the lessons Maliha has taught us to make a difference in our lives and our communities. I know so many people have followed her story and will feel a loss at what has occurred, I am so sorry I do not have better news to share – I thank everyone for their support, kindness, and care for this sweet little dog and hope her story and her journey has brought something positive and meaningful into your lives. " More at: http://www.scarscare.org/Animal.aspx?AnimalID=732
March 14, 2011 – "Well, I am feeling better these days. Those surgeries take a lot out of a dog and require quite a bit of recovery time. Foster mom says nothing is ever easy for me, but I think that is okay because lots of things in this world aren’t that easy.
So here’s my update:
Ears feeling good and all healed up infection seems to be cleared - just finishing off my second round of antibiotics, and we will see what happens now
Mouth, surgery site is healed and, well, the holes are still there and they are going to be there… so I’m working on keeping the food in my mouth and not my nose, and pain… what pain?
This morning it was drizzling when I called to see what time Jay would be ready to be picked up. He said it was 'pouring cats and dogs' at his house, and he was scared he would melt, so didn't want to work.
So Ray and I worked on the cargo trailer. It stopped misting as soon as we started, and the sun came out. Ray primed some more of the cabinets in the cargo trailer. It is easier to prime and paint the sides of the closet, front and back, before they are installed.
I vacuumed the trailer, emptied the shop vac, and my Hoover Nanolite, that I use in the house. They both sure do pick up a lot. That Nanolite picks up all the grit, dirt and fur out of my carpet. It is the best little upright that I have ever had, and it is so easy to empty, and clean it's HEPA filter. The filter comes with a knob that you slide back and forth, and all the dust comes out.
For the little orphan kittens, with their Velco-like little claws, it was "Manicure" time, today.