Rat hero Magawa, who sniffed bombs and saved lives, has died. He was 8 years old.
In 2020, the rodent received a Medal of Honor for its mine clearance work in Cambodia for the past five years, during which it has helped locate more than 100 landmines and other explosives to be deactivated.
The giant African rat in the pocket “passed away peacefully” over the weekend, according to the Belgian demining association Apopo, which looked after Magawa – their most successful rodent trainee to date. Magawa’s “incredible sense of smell” has enabled “Cambodian communities to live, work and play; without fear of losing life or a limb, ”they wrote in a statement.
Born in Tanzania, Magawa trained with Apopo for a year before moving to Cambodia, where an estimated six million landmines were buried for decades after years of war in Southeast Asia.
Magawa – a nearly two-and-a-half-foot-and-two-and-a-half-pound rat – was in good health and “spent most of the last week playing with his usual enthusiasm,” they explained. But last weekend, “he started slowing down, taking more naps and showing less interest in food in his final days.”
The intelligent creature was able to detect a chemical compound used to make explosives and cleared more than 1.5 million square feet of land. Magawa could survey an area the size of a tennis court in just 20 minutes.
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals in the UK awarded him a gold medal in 2020, their first rat to win top honors in the organization’s 77-year history, for his “saving dedication to duty”.
He retired in June as he began to “slow down” with age.
“All of us at Apopo feel the loss of Magawa and we are grateful for the incredible work he has done,” they said in a statement.