Hero Rats, We Called 'Em.
September 8, 2010 2:28 PM   Subscribe

My Rat, My Banana-Huffing Landmine Detector: A lush, montage-ready photographic survey of the humble origin, training, and subsequent career of Tanzanian rats enlisted in the fight against landmines.
posted by darth_tedious (18 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Hero-Rats! I donate 5 euro a month to help support them; it's a quick deduction from my account via Paypal. For this meager sum, you can both feed a rat and contribute to its training, all for the price of a double-triple mocha caramel latte with cream and sprinkles. The rats are also doing excellent work in detecting TB in sputum samples.
posted by jokeefe at 2:41 PM on September 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


This makes me happy. I forwarded this to my rodent-hating friends who went to Tanzania with me a few weeks ago. Maybe the trainers can use the hyrax next?
posted by *s at 2:47 PM on September 8, 2010


I like this, but it sounds like a recipe for rat-a-kablooie.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:51 PM on September 8, 2010


Rats are wonderful at mine sniffing out landmines and one reason is that rats are small. They don't get big enough to trip off the landmines. As well being cheaper to feed is a strong advantage.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:08 PM on September 8, 2010


Effective and snuggly, what more could you ask for in anti-landmine equipment?
posted by tommasz at 3:17 PM on September 8, 2010


So cute!
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:21 PM on September 8, 2010


Thanks for this. A busy rat is a happy rat.
posted by grounded at 3:29 PM on September 8, 2010


Finally someone else is recognizing the pure awesome that is the MEGA RAT. I love those guys.
posted by Neofelis at 3:33 PM on September 8, 2010


I am worried that, once the rats know where all the land mines are, they will turn on us and demand more and more bananas and peanuts. We will be at the mercy of our admittedly adorable rodent overlords!
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:38 PM on September 8, 2010


Hurrah for ratties!
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:58 PM on September 8, 2010


!! Awesome.
posted by darlingmagpie at 4:18 PM on September 8, 2010


I've seen pictures of this before, and every time, I am struck by how careful and attentive the trainers are with the rats in the field. The rats are kept hitched to a leash at all times, with the trainers always watching over them. This image from the Boston Globe shows how its done: 2 trainers to every rat. They're a badass landmine-removal team!

In addition, I hope this paves the way for raccoons to become CIA agents because I'd really like those sly fuckers off my porch.
posted by sarahnade at 4:28 PM on September 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


They're certainly very cute and lovely and intelligent and I'd love to cuddle one, but I'm not sure I fully support working animals, but I can see that it's very useful.
posted by foxy at 5:18 PM on September 8, 2010


Previously.
But still nifty.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:09 PM on September 8, 2010


Thank you so much for sharing this link. I’ve read about these rats being used to do this before, but the pictures made this story spring to life.

Also, I love the videos that are linked within the article. There is a clip that shows how the trainers stand on each side and the rat walks through one side of the field, then a few cm forward and back through the entire field, a few more centimeters.

A bit more from the videos, 1 in 20 people in Mozambique step on a landmine per month…(keep working, hero rats)

Rats are also being trained to sniff out tuberculosis.

and Allan the rat is available for adoption, too.
posted by Wolfster at 8:40 PM on September 8, 2010


This is big in Mozambique as well. I was pretty keen on it until last weekend, when I met this ex-military Brit guy out with friends, who works for a big mine-removal NGO in the field now. He kind of scoffed at the whole thing, making the point that a well-trained and well-equipped human is just as safe and twice as effective at mine detection / removal (given that it takes 2 people to for each rat). Assuming enough funding for training and equipping the humans, removal rates could easily double in many of these places, which is extremely important to a country like Laos (et. al.) where they estimate not having removed all the ordinance for literally ages. Of course, the big preventive factor in many cases is the lack of funds to train and equip humans...so I guess "go rats!" in such cases anyway.

Sorry for spreading the landmine-rat negativity.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:57 AM on September 9, 2010


Of course, the big preventive factor in many cases is the lack of funds to train and equip humans...so I guess "go rats!" in such cases anyway.

Of course, you're ignoring the fact that if we blow up a rat, the trainers will be a little sad, but no big deal. Blowing up a human? Not so easily overcome.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 11:43 AM on September 9, 2010


Of course, you're ignoring the fact that if we blow up a rat, the trainers will be a little sad, but no big deal. Blowing up a human? Not so easily overcome.

According to the info in the article and links within the article (videos), the rats are too light to trigger the mines, so they should not/would not be blowing up.
posted by Wolfster at 7:03 PM on September 9, 2010


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