"Although still in good health, he has reached a retirement age and is clearly starting to slow down," said APOPO — the group that trained the heroic rodent

By Nicholas Rice
June 05, 2021 06:05 PM
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Magawa, hero rat
Credit: APOPO

The "hero rat" is ready to retire!

On Friday, APOPO — the organization that trained a rat named Magawa to detect landmines in Cambodia — announced that he would be retiring at the end of June.

"With mixed feelings, we announce that PDSA gold medalist Magawa will be retiring this month," APOPO tweeted of the African giant pouched rat. "Although still in good health, he has reached a retirement age and is clearly starting to slow down."

Over his five-year career, Magawa detected 38 items of unexploded ordinances and 71 landmines, according to a statement from APOPO. The rodent, who was born in 2013, began his career three years later after training in APOPO's research center in Tanzania.

"During his illustrious five-year career, HeroRAT Magawa's work has directly saved the lives of men, women and children who were impacted by hidden landmines and other deadly remnants of war," the organization said. "Every discovery he made reduced the risk of injury or death for the people of Cambodia."

Back in September, the PDSA (formerly known as People's Dispensary for Sick Animals) awarded Magawa with its gold medal award, making the animal the first rat to score the U.K. charity's honor reserved for heroic animals. He was the 30th recipient of the prize overall.

Magawa's size allows him able to safely step over the explosives without setting them off, as he's about 27.5 inches long nose-to-tail and weighs in at 2.7 lbs.

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PDSA pointed out on Instagram that Magawa can cover an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes. If a human were to tackle the same space with a metal detector, they'd be busy for up to four days, they claimed.

"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," the organization said of the trained animal's process.

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According to a prior report from the Associated Press, Magawa's favorite foods are bananas and peanuts. He loves his running wheel, and PDSA described his personality as being "a determined worker and always friendly." His trainers also said he's "quick and decisive" — but also "likes to take naps at break time."

The outlet also noted that Magawa's tiny PDSA gold medal (which measures nearly three-fourths of an inch in diameter and weighs 0.14 ounces) was created by Cleave & Company — the same jewelers who crafted Meghan Markle's engagement ring.