Magawa, a rat who clears landmines, awarded medal for heroism

The danger caused to workers by clearing landmines is what motivates organizations like APOPO, the NGO that trained Magawa, to train rats to find landmines so that handlers can clear them.

cambodia nice 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
cambodia nice 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Magawa, a giant pouch rat, was awarded a medal for his work detecting undetonated landmines and unexploded ordinance, CNN reported.
The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a British veterinary charity, was "thrilled to celebrate his life-saving devotion by awarding him the PDSA gold medal," said director general Jan McLouglin. 
Magawa works to uncover landmines in Cambodia, a country with millions of undetonated landmines and other ordinance left from decades of conflict. The danger caused to workers by clearing landmines is what motivates organizations like APOPO, the NGO that trained Magawa, to train rats to find landmines so that handlers can clear them. 
Because Magawa is too light to set off a mine, he can detect them and alert his handler more safely than a human could. 
Landmines kill an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people each year, and in Cambodia, up to 50% of those killed by landmines are children, according to UNICEF.

Since 1979, 64,840 deaths in Cambodia were reportedly caused by landmines and there are 25,000 amputees from unexploded ordinance in the country, according to CNN. 
landmines and unexploded ordinance also limit Cambodians' access to safe farmland, which serves to "keep poor communities impoverished," according to the US State Department. 
Magawa is the charity's best performing rat, according to the CNN report. He has helped clear more than 141,000 square meters of land, discovering 39 landmines and 28 unexploded ordinance objects. In only 30 minutes, Magawa can clear an area the size of a tennis court.
McLouglin said "Magawa is a hero rat," and he was awarded the PDSA's highest distinction for "animal bravery."
With an estimated 3 million unexploded landmines still left to be detected in Cambodia -  Magawa and rats like him have their work cut out for them.