Life-saving rats – Tanzania-based NGO Apopo trains giant African pouched rats to sniff out land mines and detect tuberculosis -- two scourges that have had a tremendously negative impact on the African landscape.
Clearing Mozambique – In 2006, Apopo started testing rats on the mine fields in Mozambique, a country that at that time was one of the worst affected by landmines, thanks mainly to a civil war that ended in 1992.
Almost mine-free – Since then, Apopo has cleared the country of 6,693 landmines, 29,934 small arms and ammunition, and 1,087 bombs. It is on track to clear Mozambique of landmines by the year's end.
Working with humans – Mine detection rats take nine months to a year to train. The rats are socialized when they are four-weeks-old so that they are comfortable working with humans.
For the love of bananas – The rats are then conditioned with clicker training, so that they associate the sound of a click with a reward (usually peanuts or bananas). They are then introduced to a target scent (TNT or positive TB samples).
Sandbox training – Mine-detection rats are then trained in a sandbox, where they are charged with sniffing out TNT-stuffed tea balls.
Testing their know-how – In the final stage of training, mine-detection rats demonstrate their abilities at a training field at Morgoro, Tanzania -- the second largest in the world. It has over 1,500 mines, over 14 types are used during different training stages.