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How do Rats detect Mines or Bombs in Africa?

Updated on February 19, 2015

Dogs Vs Mine Detector Rats :

Police dogs are well-known to everybody. They catch hold of robbers or criminals with their good sense of smell. They follow the blood stain marks and drag investigators to the exact spot where murders or mishaps had taken place. Also help to find bombs and mines(also called dumb bombs) lying quietly beneath the earth's surface. Dogs display an unmatched ability and sense to perform this type of detection work.

Can anyone guess that the same kind of working ability is also shown by mine detector rats? It is unbelievable but true. Just imagine how unstable these rats are! How to make these small living beings stay firmly at one place? After all, how to make them fully useful for the work? These quiestions may automatically arise in anybody's mind.

Sniffer Rats

giant African rat or hero rat
giant African rat or hero rat

African Giant Pouched Rats

The answer is African giant pouched rats. They are also called Sniffer rats. In South Africa they are trained and fully utilised for the detection of mines.

How do bomb detecting rats save lives in Africa?

There is an institution in Tanzania, just to train rats for the detection of mines or bombs, hidden beneath the earth. APOPO is the name of the institution well-known for this. It is a Belgium based institution. Trained rats, sniff and detect the planted mines before they are stepped over by somebody and get blasted. Sometimes even moving vehicles may be target of these planted mines. So, these sniffer rats are active in detecting them easily. As many parts of Africa is always been effected by communal riots, deaths due to burried mines are often seen here. Every year a lot of ill-fated African people die because of this. In addition to the landmines, rats are also being used to sniff out tuberculosis.In this way they help diagnose diseases also.

Training the Pouched rats :

Hero rat , giant African rat or Sniffer rat getting trained to sniff out the bombs hidden
Hero rat , giant African rat or Sniffer rat getting trained to sniff out the bombs hidden

Why rats...?! Dogs too can be used for the sniffing and detection work, isn't it? But it is very expensive to train dogs for the same purpose. These African rats are more quicker than the dogs. Bart Petjens, the director of 'APOPO institute' says the African rats learn faster than dogs.

Rats are taken to the spots where mine detection has to be done. They just start scratching the soil below their feet, whenever they come across these mines. Immedeate action is taken by Police. They diffuse the mines or bombs without delaying. The capability to sniff out the chemicals in these bombs, is more in rats.

They are 30 inches in length and weigh hardly 3 to 4 pounds. They have a pouch just as we see in Kangaroos and Pandas. The African pouched rats use these pouches to collect foodstuff and carry them to their rat holes, rather than carrying young ones in them. Tiny insects, vegetables, dried fruits, pumpkin seeds, cereals are their food. They are very friendly living beings. The males are a bit of attacking type in behaviour than when compared to female rats. This attacking kind of behaviour is seen mostly during their period of mating. If they are not been monitored properly, they nibble upon anything they see around them.

Life span of these rats is 8 years. The training starts during the 5th week, after they are born. Training continues till the 12th month.

In more than 60 countries, all over the world , some 80,000,000 mines are planted beneath the ground surface. If APOPO expands their network all over, then these rats will surely have a chance to fly to foreign countries also. Then, the number of dogs used for this purpose, may also be less.

Comments on pouched rats :

Comments on these rats are very much welcome.

© 2009 vivekananda


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    • jamterrell profile image

      jamterrell 6 years ago

      I don't know this before, this is very interesting hub.