Giant rats detect landmines
February 21, 2013
The Global Journal publication placed the humanitarian organization Apopo among the hundred best NGOs in the world. Its main assets are simple rodents.
‘The giant rat ‘cheeks’ (the Genus Cricetomys can reach up kilogram weight average) is one of the most smell sensitive animal in the planet. It is therefore ideal for detecting the location of explosive trinitrotoluene or contaminated samples from tuberculosis.
It also has a great life expectancy (up to eight), Christophe Cox, CEO of the organization said.
For Cox, the process could not be simpler: Once the rats open their eyes at the age of four weeks, they are trained to get used to different stimuli. With this premise, in both cases (tuberculosis and mines) provides a clang as a reinforcer associated with a food reward.
Different samples are then added, both negative and positive, to condition their reaction to the correct answer. Got this as just about perfect detection. The ‘Pavlov’s dog’, African rat version.
And the numbers are staggering. Only in the city of Morogoro Tanzania (host organization), 64 additional rats were accredited last year to detect weapons. Some animals that served to neutralize more than 2,400 landmines in neighboring Gaza province (Mozambique), until then, one of the world most affected by the disease.