Jul 4, 2008

ROUS Seeking Mine

Mozambique is but one country littered with lethal mine fields. There have been many different methods developed to discover these mines, ranging from running mad-cow-diseased cattle over the fields to detonate the bombs to sacrificial child-soldiers to armored mine-clearing vehicles. But all such methods have significant flaws or limitations, or are just plain evil.

Enter the Giant Gambian Pouched Rat.

Photo source: Time.com
These rats are ideally suited to clearing land mines. They are intelligent, easy to train, easy to transport, cheap to feed, work well with any handler, and are resistant to tropical diseases (unlike dogs who weigh too much, get bored, and succumb to such diseases too readily). 36 such rats have already cleared the country of thousands of mines. Two rats can accomplish in one hour what a human de-miner would take two weeks to do.

How do they do it? They are trained to sniff out the TNT in the mines. As they scamper across the field, they sniff the ground. Once they catch a whiff of the explosive, they scratch at the ground. The rat's handler then clicks a remote, which signals the rat's collar to chirp, making the rat run back to the handler for food. The rats find the mines, but are too light to detonate them. They can be used again and again and seem to really enjoy the work.

I have a new found respect for vermin. Which reminds me: I need to give my brother a call.

6 comments:

Daniel Bassett said...

That is so cool. Damn rodents are cool. Especially the beaver.

meg said...

I think these were one of the species that brought monkeypox to the US and infected some prairie dogs around here...

Theodosia said...

You can read more about this program at www.apopo.org and www.herorat.org, which have videos and amusing graphics. I hadn't known you didn't know about them, or I would have sent the link ages ago. Such a very cool idea which really does work!

Kit said...

Oh wow! I love rats, but these guys are huge! I can't tell if that means they'd be better pets, or worse.

Kelly said...

I have one Kit, and so far he's a delight. He's only 10 weeks old so he's a baby, about the size of a normal rat now, and he's already taken a chunk out of my finger. I can't wait for him to grow up...

Actually, he is a very sweet little (big?) thing. He will of course be the size of a cat one day, so I'm enjoying these quiet times before he's large enough to tell ME not to shit in the corner...

Nonexistant Black Feather said...

that's so frickin' cool. and so cute.