Meet Magawa, the Landmine-Detecting Rat of Cambodia Who Has Saved Many Lives

Meet Magawa, the Landmine-Detecting Rat of Cambodia Who Has Saved Many Lives

A rat who has been detecting landmines has been awarded a medal for his bravery and dedoication to duty, which has saved many lives.

PSDA Awards Cambodia’s Hero Rat Magawa

Meet Magawa, an African pouched rat, who has been a landmine detection rat for a long time now. The giant rat has, to this day, discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance in Cambodia. He got his skills from a year of traning with the charity APOPO. The charity considers Magawa their most successful rat as he has cleared more than 141,000 square meters of land.


For his lifesaving bravery, Magawa was awarded with a puny PDSA Gold Medal, which is the animal equivalent of the George Cross. Magawa makes history as APOPO’s first-ever rat in the charity’s 77-year history to receive such an award.

Cheif executive of APOPO, Christopher Cox, said, “To receive this medal is really an honour for us. I have been working with APOPO for over 20 years. Especially for our animal trainers who are waking up every day, very early, to train those animals in the morning. But also it is big for the people in Cambodia, and all the people around the world who are suffering from landmines. The PDSA Gold Medal award brings the problem of landmines to global attention.”

Magawa landmine detecting rat

Cox added that rats are smart animals. Better than any other creature on earth, they will work at repetitive tasks in exchange for treats. Also, since they are small in size, they will less likely be in danger when surveying an area with landmines.

The rats APOPO trains are usually under their supervision for at least a year before they can be certified as a landmine detector. They are especially trained to detect a chemical compount within explosives. Working for half a day specifically in the morning, they are sent to fields to detect a landmine and alert their human handlers by scratching the top.


Magawa is now nearing retirement age, but he proves that he’s still the best at what he does by searching an area as big as a tennis in only 30 minutes or less. This big of a field would have taken a human being with metal detector four days to survey.


PSDA gebera director Jan McLoughlin said of Magawa, “The work of Magawa and APOPO is truly unique and outstanding. Cambodia estimates that between 4m and 6m landmines were laid in the country between 1975 and 1998, which have sadly caused over 64,000 casualties. 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.”

It is worth noting that Cambodia has the highest number of mine amputees per capita in the world at more than 40,000 people. But with the help of Magawa and APOPO, a lot of lives have been saved and more will be spared from the wrath of landmines.

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