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.


Donald Trump no fan of ‘Borat’ creator Sacha Baron Cohen

Updated 24 October 2020

Donald Trump no fan of ‘Borat’ creator Sacha Baron Cohen

  • Word of Baron Cohen’s latest outrageous ambushes on unsuspecting participants had spread like wildfire

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE: Donald Trump said Friday he has not been a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen – even before a clip from the British comedian’s new Borat movie forced the US president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani into an awkward explanation.
Asked about the clip – which shows Giuliani in a faked “interview” with an attractive and flirtatious young woman – while speaking to journalists aboard Air Force One, Trump said: “I don’t know what happened.”
“But years ago, you know, he tried to scam me. And I was the only one who said no way. That’s a phony guy. And I don’t find him funny.”
Trump said the incident happened about 15 years ago.
“To me, he was a creep,” Trump said.
The president did not provide further details about that encounter, but in a 2003 interview, Baron Cohen – playing the wannabe gangster Ali G – pitched a business venture to Trump: special gloves for eating ice cream.
Before the new Borat film’s release, word of Baron Cohen’s latest outrageous ambushes on unsuspecting participants had spread like wildfire.
On Wednesday, Giuliani issued an angry denial over the fake interview.
In the film, the encounter appears to leave the 76-year-old former New York mayor in a compromising situation, caught with his hands down his pants in the bedroom.
Giuliani said the scene was “a complete fabrication.”
“I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment. At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate,” he tweeted.
“If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise, he is a stone-cold liar.”
The comedian continued to poke fun at Giuliani.
In a video posted on social media, Borat himself leapt to his defense and accused the “fake news media” – a term often used by Trump and his supporters – of turning an “innocent” encounter into “something disgusting.”