Magawa: A rat awarded “Gold Medal” for bravery
Published: 02:22 PM, 28 September 2020 Updated: 03:06 PM, 10 October 2020
HeroRAT Magawa wearing gold medal; photo: PSDA/Reuters
Rats are considered as a harmful animal in human society. But, Magawa, a 5-year-old African giant pouched rat is totally different from this aspect. Magawa has discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance and helped to clear more than 1.5 million square feet of land over the past four years. And for this, he has received PDSA Gold Medal.
The medal awarded on Friday (Sept 25) lauded the “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty” for work detecting land mines in Cambodia.
Magawa is the first rat to receive the award — a gold medal bestowed by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PSDA), a British charity, that is often called the “Animal’s George Cross.” The award reportedly is the highest honor for outstanding animal bravery and exceptional dedication in civilian life, which has been presented to 30 recipients to date.
According to PDSA, Magawa can search the area of a tennis court in 30 minutes, something that would take a human with a metal detector up to 4 days.
“Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these land mines,” said Jan McLoughlin, the Director General of the charity, which bestowed the award in an online ceremony. “Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.”
“Magawa’s dedication, skill, and bravery are an extraordinary example of this and deserve the highest possible recognition,” Ms. McLoughlin added.
Tanzanian-born Magawa was trained by Belgian nonprofit organization APOPO to sniff out explosives. With careful training, he and his rat colleagues learn to identify land mines and alert their human handlers, so the mines can be safely removed. Magawa’s official job title is “HeroRAT.”
Since 1979, landmines have caused 64,000 casualties in Cambodia, according to the PDSA. The country has the highest number of mine amputees per capita in the world, with more than 40,000 people having lost limbs to unexploded devices. APOPO also operates in Angola, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.