New Delhi: “Heroes come in all shapes and sizes,” reads an old quote and Magawa, the rat who has so far discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance, on Friday (September 25, 2020) was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal, which reportedly is the highest honour for outstanding animal bravery and exceptional dedication in civilian life.

The landmine detection rat Magawa received the PDSA Gold Medal for his life-saving work in Cambodia and became the first rat to receive the Gold Medal, which has been presented to 30 recipients to date.

“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,” said PDSA which is the UK’s leading veterinary charity and was founded in 1917 by animal welfare pioneer, Maria Dickin.

They added, “Magawa is an African Giant Pouched Rat – so much larger than your average pet rat – but still light enough that he would never set off a landmine by walking over it.”

They stated that in Tanzania, a charity called APOPO has been training rats to detect landmines since the early 1990s and even today, it’s estimated that there are still 80 million landmines around the world which are lying active and unknown.

“That’s why rats like Magawa have been trained. It’s completely safe for rats like Magawa to detect landmines and they’re very intelligent animals so are easy to train. Magawa began training from a young age after being bred by APOPO for this purpose,” stated PDSA.

According to PDSA, Magawa has helped in clearing over 141,000 square metres of land.

“Magawa has been detecting landmines for the past five years. He completely ignores any scrap metal lying around and so is much faster at finding landmines than people would be. He can search the area of a tennis court in 30 minutes, something that would take a human with a metal detector up to four days,” said PDSA.

“When Magawa detects a landmine by the chemicals used in it, he signals to his handler. They know that where Magawa signals is the exact location because his sense of smell is so good, and so can dispose of the mine safely,” they added.

As per a report, the Medal depicts a laurel wreath and the words – ‘For animal gallantry or devotion to duty’.

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