13 January 2010

The Landmine-Sniffing Rats of Mozambique

The brutal 16-year civil war in Mozambique is over since 1992, but the country is still covered with landmines affecting the everyday life of many Mozambicans. Some of the minefields were already planted decades ago by the Portuguese colonial army. Later on, during the actual civil war, the fields were set by the forces of the Frelimo government as well as by their South African-backed opponents.

Once placed in the ground, it is really difficult to get rid of landmines. Therefore many innovations have been made - one of them & probably one of the most effective is to train the African Giant Pouched rat or 'Cricetomys gambianus' for the mine detection task. APOPO, a charity registred in Belgium and headquartered in Tanzania, is running a demining project in Mozambique utilizing the local resource. In 2009 roughly 310,000 square meters of land was cleared of landmines by the sniffing rats of Mozambique brining it to more than one million square meters in total.

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