• Three Minutes

And the Award goes to…………A Rat!

When I had watched the movie Ratatouille, the fact that I was shell shocked would be an understatement. Coupled with the innocence of a child’s brain, the fact that a rat could have culinary skills surprised me. But that was that. A story, a fictitious character. But no more. Yes, indeed a rat can do wonders, proved by the very first ‘rat’ recipient of the PDSA award, Magawa.

PDSA was founded in 1917 by Maria Dickin, a person who dedicated her entire life for animal welfare. PDSA functions through 48 pet hospitals across the UK and is its leading veterinary charity. It treats sick and injured pets at either low costs or does not charge at all.

The PDSA Gold Medal was started in 2002 for rewarding animals for their civilian acts of bravery and their devotion to their work. It is the highest honour of recognition to be awarded to the animals for their bravery. “Heroes come in all shapes and sizes” is the guiding motto for this award.

In the past this honour has been conferred to over 30 animals and all of them happen to be dogs. Last year, a dog called Bacca was the proud recipient of this honour for his heroic act of chasing down an assailant, during which Bacca had sustained injuries to his head and neck in the process.

The idea of a dog receiving an award for displaying acts of bravery takes no time to sink in but a rat receiving a same definitely does. Let’s see the heroic act of Magawa now.

There happens to be a charity called APOPO in Tanzania. Since the 1990s they have been training rats to detect landmines there. According to several estimates done by organizations, there happens to be about 80 million landmines active at different sites all across the world. Here is where Magawa comes to the rescue. This African Giant pouched rat has also been receiving training for the same. The rats of this breed are much larger than the usual rats which are kept as pets, but still they are light enough as to not trigger a landmine while moving over it. These rats are often titled as - ‘HeroRats’. An apt title indeed.

Magawa has been providing its services in Cambodia, a place which has the highest number of mine amputees per capita in the entire world. Magawa has been working in this capacity for seven years and has been so trained that it can search an area equivalent to that of a tennis court in just about thirty minutes( the same job when done by humans can take 4 days, with the aid of a metal detector).

When the rats detect landmines underneath by sniffing the chemicals used, they signal their handlers and the mines are safely disposed off. Magawa has, till date, detected about thirty nine landmines and twenty eight items of exploded ordnance. He has also searched over 141000 square meters of land(roughly equals the area covered by two football pitches). It happens to be the best performing rat of the charity and has done complete justice to the norm of naming these animals ‘HeroRats’.

Well Done Magawa, our Rat Hero!!!

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