Magawa, the African giant pouched rat who made a name for himself for helping discover over 100 landmines in Cambodia, passed away “peacefully” over the weekend, the charity that trained him, APOPO, said in a statement. The celebrated rat was 8.
Born and raised in Tanzania, Magawa received a gold medal for his sniffing prowess. In the statement to announce his passing, the Belgian charity expressed their gratitude for Magawa’s contributions during his time of service, Africanews reported.
“All of us at APOPO is feeling the loss of Magawa,” APOPO said.
During his years of service, Magawa reportedly helped detect and clear mines covering about 225,000 square meters of land – which is comparable to 42 soccer pitches. And besides landmines, the rodent also helped detect other explosives.
Magawa retired in June 2021. The rodent was said to be healthy and “playing with his usual enthusiasm” almost the whole of last week. Nearing the weekend, however, APOPO said he “started to slow down, napping more and showing less interest in food in his last days.”
The deceased rodent was trained by APOPO to sniff out the chemical compounds in explosives in return for tasty treats. His favorites were bananas and peanuts, per Africanews. Upon using “his amazing sense of smell” to detect such compounds, Magawa would bring it to the attention of deminers by scratching the earth. APOPO said the rodent is their most successful “hero rat” on record.
“His contribution allows communities in Cambodia to live, work, and play; without fear of losing life or limb,” the organization said.
Magawa, in 2020, became the first rat to receive a gold medal for gallantry by the British charity, The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), BBC reported.
Due to their strong sense of smell and ability to be quickly trained, African giant pouched rats are ideal when it comes to searching and detecting mines. APOPO said they have over 100 rats using their sniffing prowess to search for mines around the world.