A nose for trouble
Merry usually wakes up before the sun rises and is driven to work along with 11 of her colleagues. They work for a few hours, napping between shifts.
Her job, detecting landmines and other unexploded ordnance, requires a laser-like focus. It also helps that, at about 1kg in weight, she’s light on her feet.
Merry is an African giant pouched rat, an exceptionally smart rodent with superior olfactory abilities.
She’s one of a team of HeroRATs that are bred, trained and deployed by the Apopo Foundation, a Belgian nonprofit organisation that is headquartered in Tanzania.
After working successfully to help detect mines in Mozambique and Angola, the organisation partnered with the Cambodian Mine Action Centre in 2015.
Cambodia is one of the most mine-contaminated countries in the world. The effect of mines and unexploded ordnance on communities has been nothing short of devastating. According to the latest figures from the Cambodia Mines/UXO Victim Information System, more than 64 000 casualties were recorded between 1979 and February.
Tethered to a cable and attached to handlers on either side, the HeroRATs work the ground with their noses, sniffing for trinitrotoluene, a powerful explosive substance. They are able to check an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes, much faster than a person with a detector could.
“We never miss mines using rats,” says Vendeline Shirima, Apopo’s international mine-detection rats supervisor from Tanzania.
If you want to support Apopo, consider adopting a HeroRAT. For more information about
Apopo, go to apopo.org
Merry the rat, pictured here with one of her handlers, can check an area the size of a tennis court for mines in just half an hour