Tanzania: Hero Rats


Man Holding a Rat; a rat eating something

For the past seven years, Bart Weetjens has been running a unique lab in Tanzania, where he trains rats to sniff out deadly unexploded land mines -- the legacy of countless bloody conflicts. Although dogs have traditionally been used to help humans detect mines, Weetjens realized that rats are lighter, cheaper to maintain and less susceptible to tropical disease. “I’ve always felt a very strong bonding with rodents,” he says. In Hero Rats, FRONTLINE/World reporter Alexis Bloom accompanies Weetjens to work in Mozambique to watch his trained rodents in action. She also visits a school there that was cleared of land mines with the help of the rats, allowing the children to resume their education and play without fear of stepping on a mine. “They save human lives,” Weetjens says of the rats, "and, yes, they are heroes, actually."

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Portland, Oregon

I've watched this three times, my own two pet rats on my shoulders, and it doesn't get old! I love that a) rats are getting the positive publicity they deserve and b) the land mines are being cleared.

This is a fabulous idea to clean up a ravaged (through no fault of the current locals) part of the world, and hopefully help the condition of all rat kind.

Rats easily learn to love humans, and even more they innately love food, treats, a stable lifestyle. Everyone wins, since these rats don't have to scrounge in the wilderness, and deal with drought, famine, disease and predators, but instead get fed and protected in return for a fun scavenger hunt game (to them). And children get to use the land around their schools again.

Thanks so much to Bart, and everyone involved with the HeroRats team for all the great work you're doing.

Louis Lamontagne
Laupen, Switzerland

Very important work. People in Africa suffer enough as it is. Any decent way they can be helped is welcome; and this is a decent way (the rats are not mistreated in any manner). Congratulations for your humanistic endeavour.

Jessica Warner
Lancaster, PA

Having worked with two rats in college for a Behavioral Psych. class, I have a strong fondness for rodents, particularly rats. When the course was completed, I kept the two rats as pets and learned just how intelligent, quick-learning, and keen their senses are. They were very sociable and knew how to ask for my attention when it was wanted. Kudos to Bart for recognizing one of the many ways in which these rodents can serve man.

Washington, DC

Fantastic story. Great to see that people like Bart are actually getting funding for these innovative solutions. Thanks for presenting this-- a truly newsworthy item!

deborah joy sommerton
bolsover, england

That is fantastic work,it is so good to hear of someone realising the potential of these animals. It must be very hard work but please keep it up,it is such worthy work.

Serenna Stone
Kennewick, WA

I was doing an essay on operant conditioning and stumbled over your AMAZING story. I can appreciate where your heart lies and that is with making this world a safer place to live. Many Thank Yous! I hope I am as successful with my dreams for making the world a safer place.

Whyalla Norrie, South Australia
I am a rat lover and have kept many pet rats over the years.I am not surprised about them being so intelligent and am glad to see them being little heroes along with the men who defuse the mines. It is a shame that they have to be used this way, rats and men, especially since neither put the land minds there in the first place but that's life and unfortunately someone has to do it. I am impressed with the dedication of people and rats to rid areas of these land mines. Well done. You all deserve medals.

gregg k
los angeles, ca

To me, these are the top echelon of rats in one of the top service jobs (to humans) in the world.

Unlike all the "testing" rodents that are never let out of their cages and are poked and injected with irritants to see how much they can tolerate before they die, these guys get to go out and play .........in the minefields.

Their job is to help make dangerous land usable-mostly for children. A job no human can do safely. The TB detection example at the end of the program should get more exposure too.

They deserve to be pampered and the work of Bart Weetjens should be supported.

One thing, I don't understand why, with all the billions spent on military/defense/intelligence, we don't yet have the technology to have large-scale, ultra sensitive metal/explosive chemical detectors for this kind of thing.

On the other hand, Nature has proven many times to have the lead in super sensory powers and medical cures. We just have to find and harness them.

Off to


.....to contribute.

Nicholas Nyangena
Arlington, Tx

Thank you Mr. Bart. My prayer is to wish you and your team long life. Time has come for people to give animals they hate, a second thought.God bless you.Amazing are the Hero rats!

Incredibly amazing and inspiring story. Thank you so much for bringing attention to this man, those amazing animals, and worthy cause.

I find it odd that 'anonymous' uses the word WE in regards to the horrors of war and its trappings. One cannot control what the rest of the world does (much as one would like to) and it is a noble task indeed to attempt to right a wrong. It is not at all inhumane to use the rats in this manner either. They like the work or they would refuse to do it. Their handlers love them (that was obvious from the segment) and use positive training methods. 'Cheaper to maintain" does not mean DISPOSABLE either. How much does it cost to feed a 65lb dog as opposed to a 5-8lb rat? These people are doing fabulous things and I applaud them!

Aubrey Rowley
Clinton Township, Michigan

WOW I wonder where they got that harness for that rat - the ones I have for my rat don't look like them.

Kat Jewell
Grand rapids, Michigan

Hello! I am a HUGE rat lover. Im glad that these rats are helping out but is it really fair to them that they have to pay for our mees ups? Now I dont know how many rats get hurt on site but I'm guessing that at least one rat, if not more has been "Blown up" for this act. Rats can feel. They feel the same if they get hurt as if we got hurt ourselves. I'm not a total expert on rats but I have 8 rats of my own right now, not including the rats I have had in the past but don't you think these rats would like a better life? It really depends on where you got these rats from really. If they are rats meant to be pets, I dont think this is right but if you got them from a place for "Food" for snakes, I agree that these rats have a better life... but do you give them attention? and how do these rats end up when they are when you are done with them or they get too old? Honestly I would take some of the rats if that was the case but I'm guessing that it wouldn't be a real possibility.
Best of luck for the rats!,

I'm glad at least someone has tried to save those disadvantaged people by at least using the rats. For the "anonymous" who claim we always use animals and they are not happy with that, would they (themselves) use their own selves to help the problem? All these years no one has even thought of robots to solve the problem. IT IS ALWAYS GOOD TO PRAISE SOMEONE'S EFFORTS! Personally, I'm thankful he has contributed to the endless efforts!

San diego, Ca

Great story. Thanks for sharing it, the rats and trainers are all heroes.Good to see some positive changes that lighten the heart from the heavy burden of war and desruction. I was amazed at what the rats were capable of, we should all value every bit of creation, even rats now are saving us from ourselves.

Elizabeth Reynolds
Takoma Park, Maryland USA

This was the most amazing story! The hero rats, and especially dear Ararat, are spectacular. The landmine problem in Africa is heartbreaking and this was an inspiring story. I would like to find a way to contribute to this effort.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
To contribute, contact Bart Weetjens directly.
He is the founder and director of the APOPO organization and the Hero Rat program. His e-mail is: bart.weetjens@gmail.com. The web site is: www.apopo.org.

Portsmouth, England
I am a personal rat lover, I think this an amazing story because a creature that everyone thinks is a vile rodent is their hero and has saved their lives. Rats also make great pets, Try them yourself.

Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
same with us in our country

Matt Lodge
United Kingdom

This is brilliant, good to see the rats getting the respect the should always of had. And its getting rid of these land mines, great!

zoe gau

Mr. Bart and his team are doing great jobs---clean the mine and kill the TB. I feel great admiration for you all.

Phyllis Pickett
Garden City, Kansas

This is wonderful to see, I own pet rats I know how very smart they are, this is wonderful to see this man & his rats help save lives!

Houston, TX
Amazing, commendable. Hoping to be able to fund such a task.

karen b
north providence, RI

i have 6 pet rats and i love them so much. I'm glad that ratties are FINALLY in the papers showing how intelligent we know they are!

eric ochieng
nyeri, kenya

this is amazing, Bart weeetjens and your time, dont let anybody's negative comments deter you from your wonderfull project, they really cant comprehend how it gets out here. bravo and longlive hero rat.

robert jimenez
salmiyah, kuwait city

wow!!! A million thanx to Bart for this endeavor...I will always pray that people will extend support to your very exciting projects. I do hope that the people of this generation will realize the destruction to humanity that they made through their guns and bombs...Please try to send your concerns to your politicians..instead of making bombs..why not extend your funds to projects like this...also..once again: rats proves that they are really part of the humans animals plants mother earth= ecological balance...
thanx to you Bart and your team!!


stockolm, sweden
Its very intresting to get a hero rat which can help us in such a situation. I encourage you to keep it up. May God bless you all.

Ojeyemi Olajide
Lagos, lagos

This is a wonderful experience in my lifetime.I thought development is only restricted to western world alone,now i got it wrong. Well done

Ifeoha Azikiwe

Please keep it up. But if I may ask, is it not the same rats that cause the deadly lasa fever? Please try harder. Your efforts may lead to other major discoveries and linkages between Man and Rats.

sadie simpson
welwyn garden city, united kingdom

I have recently acquired 2 pet rats for my daughter and believe me it took some persuading. After having seen this footage I now know I made to right choice in a pet for her. It is truly unbelievable that rats can be trained to do this very important work whilst appearing to thoroughly enjoy it and the fact that they are saving lives at the same time is fantastic.


Olivia James

It brought tears to my eyes!

fatimoh trourey
freetown, west africa

thank you very much for such a magnificent idea. at least these rats will have something better to do instead of destroying and frightening people. i hate this thing called rat. it usually frightens me to death thank God you have started eliminating them i wish the whole rat species is eliminated on planet earth .if you need more rats pls dont hesitate to come to my country i wiill dash you for free plus shipment.

prapti rai
kathmandu, nepal, nepal

that's a great effort and many thanks to this team and hero rats.

Robert Okumu
Kampala, Uganda

How on earth did he conceive such an idea? In Uganda, rats are pretty destructive and the reason we keep cats is to send the rats to their creator to avoid more havoc! But what i read about this innovation is simply amazing. How i wish in Uganda we would have those rats to help the government in Northern Uganda where people are resettling in their communities after war with LRA rebels.

lee allan
brisbane, queensland

congratulations on your excellent work,and for showing the world what amazing animals rats are,i own many pet rats i absolutely adore them, not a day goes by they dont make me laugh or lift my spirits, my two teenage daughters attend a local high school where dissections of rats seems to be accepted widely as part of science class,we are appalled and have complained to the school numerous times,these animals are just thrown away when they are finished with them,its disgusting when will it stop?,im sure
they wouldnt do it to pet dogs,i could imagine the outcry there. keep up your fantasic work,y our rats are incredible!!.

isingiro, uganda
It's quite amazing for one to use mere rats as machine against land mines. keep it up. thanks.

batanags city, philippines
great, why not train snakes also? i'm sure they'll will be better at this because most of them live underground.

Steven Kwizera
Los Angeles, CA

I have always thought of rats as annoying pests, only good when they are dead; but i now have new-found respect for the duties that these rodents can do for humanity. The other day, i was listening to an NPR (KPCC)program, and it was about a disease that was killing bats in their thousands. The commentary was that a single bat is able to eat it's weight in insects that would have otherwise destroyed crops. That too was powerful, and it goes a long way in telling us humans , that we do indeed have to respect all birds and animals because of purposes we may not know or in fact, understand.

Ho Chin Minh, Vietnam
This is my first time I have seen such wonderful work rats can save human life.It makes me feel guilty to kill the same species in the house but not now any more


incredible. i never thought rats could perform such dangerous job. good job and keep it up. an army of these rats can also be best friends of soldiers.

This is incredible!! A rat -rodent, destructive, disease-=carrier - can be that useful!!! Bart and your team, i commend you and wish you much more success. God bless you

Kisumu, West KENYA
Congratulations! May be the NATO military should think of using them in Afghanistan!

Verity Gonzalez
Merida, Merida Venezuela

Its a wonderful job, i hope the program will be extended to other countries that have the same situation... These rats will be heroes around the world... Congratulations!!!

Leonardo Vieira
Montes Claros, Minas Gerais - Brazil

Hero rats and hero professionals. It is such an important work! I myself train rats in a psychology course and found this report of peculiar importance for the usage of rats to make our world a little better, Congratulations to all of your team, including the rats!

Gulp Gloop

I always knew rats were very smart creatures! I used to have very bad warts on my hands and I had a pet rat....My rats saliva actually got rid of the warts and they have never grown back since....I wasn't even using any treatment as I had tried almost everything for my hands and then my rat started leaving saliva...after a week they disappeared, who knows what else these marvellous creatures could do!!!

Dakota Brinkman
seabrook, texas

Fantastic! best thing since sliced bread. these guys should get all the funding they need.

Pam Neufeld
squamish, BC Canada

Unreal! Created by God, trained by man. Very cool clip!


That was really amazing I had to show my rats I actually think they understood.LoL

Lera M. Blasioli
Alton, IL

Rats have always been heros in my heart & now they are going to save infinite lives!!!!

nashville, tn

God's creations are so amazing and eveyryone of them has their own personality. Even alligators and rats! I love God for His creativity and am continually amazed at all his creation. God bless you Bart!

Frances Somers
Seattle, WA

I never cease to be amazed at the excellent journalism from "Frontline." What a great story; I would have missed this if my brother hadn't send me a Christmas present of a donation to this awe-inspiring organization. Kudos to all involved!

john white
edmonton, alberta,canada

I wonder if US citizens know that the US and Russia were the only countries who refused to join a Canadian lead plan to abolish the use of landmines.

Hilversum, The Netherlands
I'm a junior and senior high school teacher in the Netherlands, your video will be my first "welcome" English listening/watching exercise for Dutch tenth graders--we start up again this week. I found the site easily through google since a Dutch national paper wrote an article on the hero rats, giving APOPO among other clues. Wonderful. I always give information like this to the biology department as well, I've also given them articles about dogs detecting cancer in urine samples.

Janet Howe
Phoenix, Arizona

Wonderful story, wonderful organization, wonderful person. Thanks for sharing the story.

Washington, DC

What a great story! It was inspiring and heart-warming to see that these furry creatures are given some positive press.
Now if we could get all the nations to stop putting land mines in...

Thanks to Bart and his staff (including the furry ones) for their efforts.

san francisco

It's refreshing to hear such a positive story. We need more of it. Thank you.

Watched the film, and all the films on APOPO's site and must say RESPECT to Bart. If there were more people on earth like him, or doing things like him, it would be a much better place. I'm a rat fanatic, do have pet rats (Norwegians) for nearly 30 years and know how intelligent they are. Also I do have a Gambian giant rat - also as pet. His name is Bendeguz, born on 18/01/08 and he is sunshine in our life (I mean for me and my family). I must THANK Bart for his great work (he deserves Nobel Peace Prize) and also I thank him for Bendeguz, since I first saw a Gambian giant rat (and fell in love at once) on APOPO's site :-)

Scott Seydel
Atlanta, Georgia

Ami Dar of Idealist.org just told this story at the Skoll Social Entrepreneurship Forum in Oxford to a crowded room and everyone is taking notes. Going to train some rats back home.

Martin Galle
Landau, Germany

www.Omaha-Beach.Org wrote:Phantastic what they do with theses animals to save lives from the horrible land mines.

--> Ban Landmines Now

Plaisir, France
Quel travail magnifique, des rats qui viennent en aide aux humains grce la rflexion, la patience de certains qui se battent pour un monde meilleur et aussi leur propre intelligence : surprenant. Flicitations et longue vie ce projet.

Allen, TX

To be honest, I have always thought of rats as creepy-crawling creatures roaming the sewers that I really have no interest in whatsoever. However, this episode has entirely altered my point of view on these rodents. I had no idea that rats are actually intelligent creatures and are capable of being trained-- especially to accomplish the heroic task of detecting landmines and saving numerous lives. These rats truly are heroes, and might even get the job done slightly better than the typical canine because, as the video states, the rats "weigh less, are cheaper to maintain and less susceptible to tropical disease". I applaud Bart Weejen, the owner and trainer of the rats, for his determination to make the world a better place, even after being turned down and laughed at numerous times, all through his love for rats.

Bart's Hero Rats are truly amazing. Who knew that an animal attached to such negative ideas as filth and disease could actually be saving lives? I knew that there were land mines in Africa but I had no idea that they caused such a threat to living life for these people. The thought that a bomb could go off when those little children were running around the schoolyard is a horrible one. Just walking along a road could turn into someone's worst nightmare. Land mines are a real problem in Africa and the rats are really helping there, but with the idea that rats can diagnose Tuberculosis these hero rats can be taken worldwide. People can be diagnosed faster and treatment can start so maybe they can save people's lives. Although these rats are heroes, if one of them saved my life I would not go up and hug and kiss it; a rat is a rat.

Allen, TX

I knew that rats were used in a lot of research, but I had no idea that they could be used to detect mines. I hope animals are used more and more to do things that humans aren't built to do. As soon as we realize that we don't have to make a machine for everything and use existing resources, a lot of time and money will be saved. We have so many amazing creatures already on the earth. It's about time we recognize this and harness their abilities. I have great respect for Mr. Bart Weetjens and others pursuing similar research because it is so difficult to acquire funding and persevere through setbacks. The tuberculosis testing mentioned at the end of the video is especially intriguing because it is likely that many more diseases can be detected by rats or even other animals. I feel that the cures for many diseases are right under our noses - or the rats' noses.

Randall Lewis
Athens, Ohio

I recently watched a pbs show about scientists trying to develop a robot that would be able to sniff out illegal drugs since it was so expensive to train dogs to do this. It seems that these rats would be a very interesting substitute for dogs in the war on drugs. I would think they could be trained to sniff out drugs the same way they sniff out land mines and at a very reduced cost compared to dogs.

Wow, this is amazing! I've never seen anything like this before!

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Neither had we until Alexis Bloom and Cassandra Herrman did this story for us at FRONTLINE/World.
Glad you enjoyed it.

I'm interested in a dvd/video of "Hero Rats." I don't know where I can get one in Australia. It is to do with rats helping defuse mines. Also any other animal heroes. I'm new at computers.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
You have come to the right place. You can watch "Hero Rats" from this site on a computer. Just click "watch video." You can also read all about these amazing rats right here. If you are interested in purchasing a DVD/video of this story, please go to shoppbs.org and look for FRONTLINE/World episode #605 which features a lead story about Aceh, Indonesia, but also includes the "Hero
Rats" story.

Jan F.
Nogota, Colombia

I was wondering if we can have this system in Colombia. I would love that our Colombian president could get to know this program. I can interpret if you need any help and I would love to volunteer in any way.

Mary Ann Flores
Pensacola, Florida

It's amazing what you are doing with these animals. I always knew they are intelligent. But this is incredible. But I have a question. How do you prevent those rats getting infected with TB? It would be sad if they get infected after helping us. Also, I like the way you trained them (with positive rewards). Congratulations for your success. The world needs more people like you.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
We asked this question to Bart and this is his response:
Thanks for your enquiry about our rats and tuberculosis. The African Giant pouched rats are NOT susceptible to TB, just like a few other species in which this is proven, like mice.
Before starting the TB program, we sorted this out first. We
deliberately infected 8 animals with TB, and none of them developed the disease. That being said, none of our detection animals are exposed to active TB. They sniff out sputum samples that have been de-activated, through heating 30 minutes at 80 degrees Celsius. Many people (rightfully) have concerns about animal rights. May I
tell you that we apply the strictest standards (space, toys, etc.) for laboratory animals, and compared to wild giant pouched rats that survive only 2-3 years in nature, our animals have a luxury life up to 8 years.

Bart Weetjens

Mark Pybus
hull, uk


San jose, Ca

I just lost my pet rat today and watching this was real warming. To the guy who complained about the rats treatment -- 1st they are living a much better life than being scoffed at in the wild, and 2nd - did you volunteer yourself to look for mines?

Erlangen, Bayern
Impressive. Great work. I never thought rats would be capable of such a great work. And what impresses me even more is the attitude behind the whole project. Helping people who can't help themselves without profit in the back of ones head. Thumbs up.

Hannah Brown
Gainesville, GA

And this is another reason why I love rats so much. I have two female fancy rats as pets and I am so privileged to have them as friends and to take care of them, but for them to also take care of me. Rats are very loving and fascinating creatures and this video proves it. They truly are heroes and are helping to make this world a little bit better to live in and to give even the smallest joy to humans. I receive joy everyday from rats and I am so proud to live and experience life with them.

Toronto, Ontario

Ever since scientists started using rats in labs for research they have been heros. Does anybody have ANY idea how many billions of rats have "given" their lives to help humans through research? We probably owe more to rats and mice than any other animals. All the research done on psychotropic medications and neurotransmitters is done on rats. It's time we made a fuss about how much rats have given us and recognized their huge, huge contributions to our lives.

This story is amazing and the entire concept is great! These rats are the best and hey, Mr. Scott H., you have no clue when it comes to the Sociological aspects that other people live with on this Planet live with.

Zoma Archambault

Scott H. You are quite a spoiled person no compassion for the events that taking place in the world today. You are so wrong. Are you helping save lives? No, you are not and you posted a comment that is quite tasteless.

Catherine Kempinski
Canal Winchester, Ohio

This was facinating. Especially at the end when the other project that noted the rats were sensitive to the smell of persons with tuberculosis. Will there be a follow up on this project with the rats? TB,especially multiple drug resistant forms, is a scourge in many countries.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
We don't have any plans for a follow-up broadcast but you can keep up with Bart Weetjens and his work with rats on the official Apopo Web site: http://www.apopo.org/newsite/content/index.htm


I also am an owner of pet rats, and it is great to see the intelligence of these little creatures to again be acknowledged and appreciated. I hope too that it may help to change the misconceptions that many people have about rats being filthy, diseased and just pure pests!! Great documentary. I enjoyed it!!

New York City, NY
I have owned domesticated pet rats for at least 17 years. I saw the Frontline story and thought it was wonderful that these rodents could be trained to help humanity. I recommend their website www.herorats.org. The Frontline story was very well presented.

Edward Chacha
South bend, IN

I mean, this guy is a true genius! Brilliant idea! I'm a Tanzanian myself, and it was pleasing to see that the project was being carried out in my home country. Many thanks to the founder of the Hero Rats. indeed, this guy (Mr. weejens) deserve a big hand from Western coutries if they do really care about this issue(unexploded land mines).

Lezy Roberts
Vanderbijlpark, South Africa

I've had pet rats all my life and seeing this video of the Hero Rats was the most inspiring thing I've seen in a long time. I try to convince people that rats are good animals and this is living proof that they are and I hope more people come to realise this.I hope and pray that Bart Weetjens and the Hero Rat project reach as much success as possible and I hope God blesses the project and that more people will support you and your team!

Bobby Deluca
Erie, PA

Mother.nature..1 landmines.....0

anytime animals are in the mix
humans are shown their usefulness
I wish we could say as much about

Amazing...cool rats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hannah Kohl
Bellingham, WA

I understand the (anonymous) person's comment about it not being completely just to use any type of animals to find landmines, but I don't think that the concern is particularly rational in the big picture. The rats are being used in a supervised and careful manner. The humans nearby working with the rats are also in danger. I see this as a team effort between man and animal. If you can be sad about a rat who doesn't weigh enough to set off the landmine, then you should also be sad about the poor little wildebeast or elephant (depending on the country) who steps unsuspecting on the mine and is blown to kingdom come. Come on, there's a problem and these guys are solving it in a thoughtful and mature way with great care towards both humans and animals.

Finding a mine with a little rat who seems to enjoy his work (or at least his treat!) is genius. The rats are held, kissed, hugged, and part of a community, which rats LOVE! It's hard to imagine living in a country where stepping on a mind is a constant thrum of fear and possibility. I'm proud of Bart and his team, both human and rodent, and I also applaud him for reaching out to those who have been affected by mines and finding them meaningful work.

It's amazing what one person can do when they follow their passion, then reach out to help others on a global scale. Bravo!

Lexington, KY
But the rats still die. I like the idea of building remote control robot toy cars to seek out and blow up the mines.

hafidh alawi
richmond hill, ontario-canada

Wow, that is a real great idea. Nothing to say much but BIG -UP. You are doing the right thing to help people from getting hurt, especially the people in that most poor country.

daniel odole
minneapolis, MN

I like your idea, you are doing a great job. Did you try it in a rural area like the Ethiopia-Gambella area? Think about it. Thanks

This was an amazing story. It's so refreshing to see these documentaries and movies now coming out with positive news about my friends, the rats! I personally breed pedigreed pet rats to make them stronger, healthier, and live longer lives. I love my rats so much and I know how sweet they are and what great pets they make but so many people think of them as gross or disposable. Thanks for this wonderful story!

Scott H
Los Angeles, California

Regarding opinions on sentimental drivel by (anonymous) and editorial care concerning the nuances of Pavlov vs. Skinner by Mr. Grossmann, I have a humble suggestion: giving the rats a day off and just skipping [yourselves] through some of the mine fields in question.

Kam Patterson
Saint George, UT

In addition to making great pets, rats are now helping rid the world of landmines and disease. Is there nothing that these amazing creatures can't do? Oh, BTW "anonymous", these rats are so Heroes.

Rafael Bejarano
Arkadelphia, Arkansas

The reporter described the procedure used to train the rats as the pavlovian method, when it is actually an operant method. Whereas Pavlovian learning (e.g., a learned fear of spiders) involves the presentation close in time of two events (e.g., seeing a spider and then being bitten by it), operant learning occurs because the learned behavior (e.g., a rat's sniffing) produces consequences that are important to the animal (e.g., the sound of a clicker that often accompanies the receipt of food).

dar es salaam, tanzania
i think this guy is a genius.

Ellen Kimball
Portland, Oregon

I just happened to catch this amazing show about HERO RATS on KOPB-TV in the middle of the night. That was just a few days after seeing Pixar's 3 excellent new animated movie, Ratatouille. Wow! It's a good week for RATS! Thanks so much for this excellent program.

In peace,

Radio Lady
(volunteer audio host at OPB Portland, OR)

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Glad you liked "Hero Rats." We like OPB in Portland, Oregon, where FRONTLINE/World consistently scores our highest TV ratings.

Margaret Gee
Carlsbad, New Mexico

Wonderful, heart-stirring story. I used to be horrified of rats, until approximately 2 years ago, when my son wanted one for a pet. When I "caved in" and said "yes", it took me only a week to realize what awesome creatures rats truly are, and how misinterpreted they can be! They are all too often viewed derogatively. I have since come to own some 15 rats, various varieties, and each one has made the perfect pet. They each have their own personalities, and they are so intelligent, affectionate and playful! I have always been an animal lover, but since I have become a rat lover, it has taken my awareness and appreciation for ALL life to a much deeper level. I would absolutely love to be able to own one of these African Giant Pouched rats for myself. Their lifespan is much longer than that of your fancy rat, dumbo rats, etc. I will research this option more, looking for places to purchase or if there are regulations preventing me from being able to own one of these fabulous creatures. I am absoultely awestruck!

Very proud of what you are doing. Don't give up and keep up the good work.

Great story! When will the video be available on the Web? Can't wait to share it!

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
By June 29. Thanks for your interest.

Fresno, CA

Kudos to Bart and his team. Amazing work. Move over "Ratatouille" here come the "Hero Rats." Would like to know how Ararat got his name. Thank you Frontline!

Michelle Doss
Corpus Christi, TX

What a great segment. I only wish that they weren't considered disposable, with all the time and training they receive.These are intelligent animals, and are being used in a way to help, and should always be respected as such.

Chicago, IL
I was AMAZED by this story. I hope we can speed up the process to help eliminate landmines forever.

Thank you "Hero Rats", Bart Weetjens, the rat trainers and the field landmine detection teams. Please let me know how I can get the "Hero Rat" T-shirts for friends and family and maybe this could be a way to help raise funding and sponsorship for the work that is being done to train of rats and support the field landmine detection workers.

Thank you for your very your brave work.
Chicago, IL

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Regarding those cool "Hero Rat" t-shirts, contact Bart Weetjens directly. bart.weetjens@gmail.com

Cynthia Martz
Sacramento, CA

I am so happy to hear this. Hooray for Bart Weetjen, his dedicated and brave crew and the Hero Rats!!!

This is highly inspiring! And I agree with anonymous's comment, couldn't have said it better myself((anonymous)"It was so refreshing...").

I really enjoyed the show. But, I also don't think that it justifies our use and potential sacrifice of animals in military testing, if that is what the show was also trying to say. While it may not be inhumane to use animals in this way, it is a necessary evil, and we should not lose sight of that. We see fit to use land mines for conflict resolution, the consequences of which are injuring and killing people. Then we use animals to help us clean up our mess. That's sad really that we have come down to that.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Bart Weetjens is devoted to his "hero rats" and there is little danger to the rats themselves in his landmine clearing operation. But we take your larger point. Thanks for writing.

Megen M
Denver, CO

It was a wonderful story! My first reaction was "those poor rats", but when I learned the rats are less likely to set off the mines than heavier dogs, I thought it was fabulous! I've always loved animals and I have worked with lab rats myself. They can be intelligent and companionable. They are terribly underrated and I applaud Bart Weetjens' work.

Sadie Bohn
Naples, Florida

Awesome! Using rats to help save lives is a great idea. I am- yrs. old and I own a pet rat. His name is Louigi and he is my little joy. Thanks to my mom's friend, I now know a lot about rats and what intelligent little creatures they are. I am glad that Louigi's relatives are so helpful. I hope that anyone who does not like rats and watches this documentary will start to think differently about rats. GOOD LUCK!!!!!

We create these land mines that kill and maim people in the first place. It is a woeful shame how we put animal lives at risk as well for our human-made brutality. Then we put a sick twisted justification for it by saying these animals are "heroes" for saving human lives. They are not heroes. They are simply usable and disposable animal fodder exploited to sort out the horrible consequences of our despicable creations. Just say it like it is and don't get all mushy about it to expiate the horribleness of our war technologies. It is inhumane to use animals in this way, but unfortunately "necessary" to the extent that we aren't willing to stop our brutality against fellow human beings and to the extent that there are no, or very few, human volunteers to do the job of detecting and neutralizing these land mines. It is truly wonderful that children can learn and play at school without fear of stepping on a mine. But, remember it is we who created these devastating mines, and so only we placed these children in danger and killed and maimed other children. Not the animals. Yes, what is done is done, and it is now our duty to sort our mess out. By all means use the rats. But, don't give us the sentimental drivel. You got it right when you say "rats are lighter, cheaper to maintain and less susceptible to tropical disease." They are test subjects and tools to do our dirty work. Just leave it at that. Thanks.

Trappe, MD
Fantastic article. Thank you so much for airing. I would like to know how to send a donation to assist this cause. Please tell me how.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Thanks for your interest. You can learn more about the project and make a donation by visiting the Apopo Web site.

Mr. Leslie Spaiser
Concord, CA

I have handled (lab) rats and they are quite cute.Now they are heroes. What a great idea. Congratulations Mr. Weetjens. Your documentary was inspiring.

Beth Haag
Denver, CO

What a wonderful story!!!! I love all animals and I've always thought rats were interesting and beautiful creatures! It was so inspiring to see them helping humans in such a wonderful way. Thanks to the founder of Hero Rats and to all the rats that are doing such important work!

Joe Grossmann
Chicago, IL

Frontline, thank you for producing excellent TV. The June... episode of WORLD was generally illuminating. I would urge you, however, to exercise a bit more editorial care with regards to basic science. In "Tanzania - Hero Rats," reporter Alexis Bloom took the word of Bart Weetjens on faith when he claimed his work was "classic conditioning," and then proceeded to describe his procedures as "Pavlovian" in your broadcast. Most college freshmen who passed Psych 101 would catch this error. Weetjens is actually using procedures studied by B.F. Skinner and his students roughly 30 years later; these methods are known as operant conditioning. Pavlov's classical conditioning was based on the concept of simple stimulus-response chains (e.g., salivating in the presence of food). Operant conditioning is a much more complex and powerful extension of the work pioneered by Pavlov, in which consequences are used to increase or decrease the probability of future behaviors under certain conditions (aka occasions or discriminative stimuli). Skinner's model of behavior is similar to Darwin's model of natural selection in its breadth and depth, unlike Pavlov's model, which is much too limited to predict the sort of complex behavioral adaptations we see in all species, including rats in a minefield. Pavlov's dog might be the easiest example of conditioning for non-scientists to recall, but please give Skinner (who preferred rats, pigeons, and people) his proper due. Operant conditioning remains in use by behavioral clinics, corporate training centers, pharmacology laboratories, zoos, and dog kennels throughout the world. You'd be hard-pressed to find Pavlovian practitioners in any of these areas.

Roger Williamson
Wittman, Maryland

Saw the show,wow! I had thought Bill Gates should fund and build metal-detecting remote control cars for youngsters to find mines. This is way better!

It was so refreshing to see a story where science is deployed for a humane purpose, and also with a humane viewpoint toward rats. Too often science displays a cold attitude, as typified by the treatment of lab rats, that is mirrored in the callous treatment of humans.

naty echeverri
new york, ny

AMAZING! How is something like this possible? Some humans really really use their brains! CONGRATULATIONS!


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