Meet Magawa – the life-saver HeroRAT who won a gold medal for bravery

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Magawa with his gold medal

A five-year-old landmine detecting rat has been awarded a gold medal for his life-saving bravery and devotion to duty.

Magawa, an African pouched rat has been acknowledged for his remarkable work and awarded with a miniature PDSA Gold Medal, the animal equivalent of Britain’s highest civilian award for bravery ‘George Cross.’

The rodent who is now nearing retirement age is awarded for his queer knack in discovering 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance (mounted guns) in Cambodia.

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) is a UK based veterinary charity founded in 1917 and Magwa is the first rat in its 77-year history to receive such an award.

Magwa was trained by the Belgian charity APOPO in Tanzania to detect chemical compounds within explosives by rewarding him his favorite food items which includes peanuts and bananas. 

The HeroRAT has sniffed more than 141,000 square meters of land that is the equivalent of 20 football grounds. Magawa would only take 30 minutes to sniff around a tennis court – an area which a human with a metal detector may take up to four days.

Jan McLoughlin
Jan McLoughlin
Director General

“The work of Magawa and APOPO is truly unique and outstanding. Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these landmines. Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.”

The CEO of APOPO Christophe Cox, says that it is a huge news for the people in Cambodia and around the globe who are suffering from landmines. This recognition brings global attention to the problem of landmines.

Cox also added that rats are highly intelligent and they are better at working repetitive tasks than other animals. Moreover, their small size makes it is less dangerous for them to walk through landmine fields.