Magawa, the mine-detecting “hero rat”, has sadly passed away at the age of eight. 

He holds the record for the most landmines detected by a rat over a career – 71.

The African giant pouched rat was also the first non-dog recipient of the PDSA Gold Medal – an animal bravery award equivalent to the George Cross medal.

Magawa most landmines detected by a rat

Trained by Belgian charity APOPO to find unexploded landmines in Cambodia, Magawa became their most successful HeroRAT to date.

Between 2017 and 2021, Magawa detected all of the mines in the Cambodian provinces of Siem Reap and Preah Vihear. He then retired from duty at the age of seven. 

Magawa also detected 38 other pieces of ERW (explosive remnants of war), including unexploded mortars and grenades. 

Through his efforts, Magawa enabled these Cambodian communities to live freely without fear.

“Every discovery he made reduced the risk of injury or death for the people of Cambodia.”- APOPO 

APOPO said Magawa “passed away peacefully” at the weekend. Despite being in good health and spending last week “playing with his usual enthusiasm”, Magawa began to slow down, eat less, and nap more as the weekend approached. 

Magawa rat

Magawa was born in November 2013 at Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania, where all APOPO’s landmine detection rats are born and trained. In 2016, he was sent to Siem Reap in Cambodia where he began his career. 

According to APOPO, one rat can search an area the size of a tennis court in 20 minutes. For a human, this could take between one to four days to do.  

Due to their small size and weight, rats are able to scurry over mines without triggering them whilst sniffing out chemical compounds in the explosives. 

APOPO work in many countries around the world to deactivate and remove unexploded landmines, left behind from past conflicts. 

“Clearing minefields is intense, difficult, dangerous work and demands accuracy and time. This is where APOPO’s animal detection systems can increase efficiency and cut costs,” they explained.

“It is thanks to all of you that Magawa will leave a lasting legacy in the lives that he saved as a landmine detection rat in Cambodia.”