Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, was recently awarded the PDSA gold medal for his life-saving work in Cambodia. He helped detect landmines.
An African giant pouched rat was awarded a gold medal for his gallantry contribution in detecting land mines in Cambodia. This is for the first time a rat has won a British charity’s top civilian award for animal bravery.
Magawa, whose official job title is HeroRAT, was awarded the medal by PDSA’s Director-General in a special virtual presentation. The PDSA Gold Medal is a non-military medal, and it rewards civilian acts of animal bravery and exceptional devotion to duty.
According to the PDSA website, Magawa has been detecting landmines for the past five years. The seven-year-old rodent has discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance to date, making him the charity’s most successful HeroRAT.
Of the 30 animal recipients of the award, Magawa is the first rat to win the honour. During his career he has helped clear over 141,000 square metres of land, helping several civilians.
In order to do his job effectively, he completely ignores scrap metal lying around. This way he is much faster at finding landmines than people would be. The rat is capable of searching an area of a tennis court in just 30 minutes, something that would take a human with a metal detector up to four days.
He detects a landmine by the chemicals used in it and then signals to his handler. Since Magawa’s sense of smell is good, officials are always sure that the detected location is right, so they dispose of the mine safely with his help.
According to PDSA, until his retirement, Magawa will continue with his service. But after that, he will spend his time playing and relaxing.