Landmine detection rat wins top UK animal bravery award

Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, has received a prestigious gold medal from PDSA for his work in detecting land mines in Siem Reap, Cambodia. (AFP)
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Updated 25 September 2020

Landmine detection rat wins top UK animal bravery award

  • Magawa, who was trained by the Belgian charity APOPO, has sniffed out 39 land mines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance
  • He can scurry across an area the size of a tennis court in just 30 minutes, something that would take four days using a conventional metal detector

LONDON: Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. A five-year-old giant African pouched rat called Magawa, however, has to be one of the world’s most unlikely life-savers.
The rodent has won the animal equivalent of Britain’s highest civilian honor for bravery because of his uncanny knack of sniffing out land mines and unexploded ordnance.
British veterinary charity the PDSA on Friday awarded Magawa its Gold Medal “for his life-saving bravery and devotion to duty,” which had transformed the lives of people in Cambodia.
Magawa, who was trained by the Belgian charity APOPO, has sniffed out 39 land mines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance, making him the organization’s most successful “HeroRAT.”
“The work of HeroRAT Magawa and APOPO is truly unique and outstanding,” said PDSA director-general Jan McLoughlin.
“HeroRAT Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these land mines.”
Millions of land mines were laid in Cambodia between 1975 and 1998, causing tens of thousands of casualties.
Magawa, based in the northern city of Siem Reap, is the first rat to receive a PDSA medal in the 77 years of the awards, joining an illustrious band of brave canines and felines — and even a pigeon.
The PDSA Gold Medal is the animal equivalent of Britain’s George Cross. The charity also awards the Dickin Medal, for military animals.
APOPO trained Magawa in his native Tanzania to detect the chemical compound within explosives by rewarding him with tasty treats — his favorite being bananas and peanuts.
The rats alert de-miners by scratching the earth.
He can scurry across an area the size of a tennis court in just 30 minutes, something that would take four days using a conventional metal detector.
He is big enough to be attached to a leash as he goes about his business but light enough not to set off mines.
“The PDSA Gold Medal award brings the problem of land mines to global attention,” said Christophe Cox of APOPO.
Cox said its team of “HeroRATs” speeded up land mine detection because of their keen sense of smell and recall.
“Unlike metal detectors, the rats ignore scrap metal and only sniff out explosives making them fast and efficient land mine detectors,” Cox said.
“This not only saves lives but returns much-needed safe land back to the communities as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.”
APOPO currently has 45 rats finding land mines and 31 detecting tuberculosis in Africa and Asia, according to its website.


Dubai-built dhow recognized as largest ever by Guinness World Records

Updated 28 October 2020

Dubai-built dhow recognized as largest ever by Guinness World Records

  • The dhow is powered by two 1,850-horsepower engines and will be used to transport cargo from the UAE to the wider region

LONDON: A dhow built in Dubai has been named the world’s largest wooden Arabic dhow in the world by Guinness World Records, it was announced on Wednesday.

The dhow, named Obaid after Emirati shipbuilder Obaid Jumaa bin Majid Al-Falasi who began an apprenticeship aged 9 in the 1940s, measures more than 91 meters long and more than 20 meters wide. The vessel is 11.22 meters high and weighs 2,500 tons.

 

According to the ship’s builder Majid Obaid Al-Falasi, son of the late Obaid, work started on the dhow years ago with no plan or actual blueprints.

“Our forefathers were divers, our ancestors worked in the sea, and my own father perused this craftsmanship for almost all his life. This is a gratitude to my father, and my country, which always aims for the top positions,” he said.

“We tried to get the longest pieces of log available. We are born dhow builders and can build dhows using other materials, but wood keeps its identity.”

The dhow is powered by two 1,850-horsepower engines and will be used to transport cargo from the UAE to Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan and India.

“This achievement is just the inevitable continuation for building dhows in the world,” said Majid, whose family still produces the traditional boats in the Dubai Creek area.

“I see it in the eyes of my son. He is passionate about what I do and what his grandfather used to do. This is what matters, for them to be able to continue the tradition and have it transferred to the next generation.

“At a speed of 14 knots, it will be enough for this dhow to operate and achieve its desired return on investment. Who knows, you might see this dhow docking at different ports all across the world.”