Magawa, the “hero rat” who sniffed out landmines, has died

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Magawa, an African pouched rat who found dozens of landmines in Cambodia, died over the weekend, the organization that trained him announced Tuesday. He was 8 years old.

APOPO — the Tanzania-based nonprofit that breeds and trains the so-called HeroRATs like Magawa — said he was in good health but had “started to slow down, napping more and showing less interest in his food in his last days.”

“All of us at APOPO are feeling the loss of Magawa and we are grateful for the incredible work he's done,” APOPO, which in English stands for Anti-Personnel Landmines Removal Product Development, said in a news release. 

Over the course of his five-year career, Magawa found more than 100 landmines and other explosives, making him APOPO's most successful HeroRAT to date, according to the organization. 

APOPO said Magawa's work allowed “communities in Cambodia to live, work, and play; without fear of losing life or limb.”

In 2019, the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, a veterinary charity in the United Kingdom, awarded him a gold medal for his sniffing efforts, making him the first rat in the nonprofit's 77-year history to earn the distinction. PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin praised Magawa, calling him a “hero rat” in a virtual ceremony.

Magawa was awarded a gold medal for sniffing out dozens of landmines in Cambodia. 

People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA)


Magawa retired last June, but APOPO had been preparing for his exit by training a new team of rodents. The group of 20 HeroRATs were tested by the Cambodian Mine Action Center and “passed with flying colors,” the organization said at the time. A rat named Ronin took over for Magawa.

More than 60 million people living in 59 countries from Cambodia to Zimbabwe live in daily fear because of landmines left behind in previous conflicts, according to APOPO. With over 40,000 amputees, Cambodia has the highest ratio of mine amputees per capita in the world. However, there has been progress. In 2020 alone, APOPO Cambodia cleared more than 4 million square feet of land. 

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