Cambodia's Hero, Landmine-Clearing Rat Dies, Leaving 'Lasting Legacy' of Lives Saved

Belgian charity APOPO, which trains animals to save lives by smell, has announced the death of Magawa, the famous mine-clearing rat in Cambodia.

The rat has died at the age of eight following a five-year career in which he found over 100 landmines and other explosives in Cambodia, making him the most successful rat trained by the charity to date.

The charity added that Magawa "spent most of last week playing with his usual enthusiasm," however began to slow down and went off his food. He then passed away peacefully at the weekend.

In an obituary published today, the charity said: "All of us at APOPO are feeling the loss of Magawa and we are grateful for the incredible work he's done.

"Every discovery he made reduced the risk of injury or death for the people of Cambodia ... Since 2000, APOPO has developed its operational headquarters, training and breeding center at SUA (Sokoine University of Agriculture) where all the landmine detection rats are born and trained.

"This is also home to APOPO Innovation department that researches and develops the innovative applications and advanced techniques used in existing operations. This is where he learned how to find explosives using his amazing sense of smell. Magawa moved to Siem Reap in Cambodia in 2016, where he began his career."

Magawa rat
Magawa, the hero rat that detected over 100 landmines in Cambodia, who received the PDSA Gold Medal award for life-saving bravery in 2020. PDSA, APOPO

In September 2020, Megawa was formally presented with a Gold Medal by the U.K. animal charity PDSA. This honor is described as the highest award for gallantry an animal can receive.

Megawa was the first animal to be given the medal in the charity's history, which has been running for 77 years.

Magawa retired last year when another 'HeroRAT,' Ronin, took his place.

According to APOPO, every discovery the rat made reduced the risk of injury or death for the people of Cambodia.

Magawa is an African giant pouched rat that was born in Tanzania at SUA in November 2013.

In its statement, the charity explained: "Over 60 million people living in 59 countries from Cambodia to Zimbabwe, do so in daily fear of landmines and other remnants of past conflict. Landmines are still inflicting pain and fear to a new generation of Cambodian people, a generation that wasn't even born when these mines were laid.

"Clearing minefields is intense, difficult, dangerous work and demands accuracy and time. This is where APOPO's animal detection systems can increase efficiency and cut costs."

APOPO obituary concluded: "It is thanks to all of you that Magawa will leave a lasting legacy in the lives that he saved as a landmine detection rat in Cambodia. Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts, for your support during this difficult time."