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Rats Scratch and Sniff To Detect Landmines

ByTim De ChantNOVA NextNOVA Next

Jonathan Kalan, reporting for BBC Future:

When the first of Apopo’s furry and four-legged HeroRats were released into a landmine-ridden field of Mozambique, there was understandable skepticism among the various government officials in attendance.

“In Mozambique we eat rats,” joked Alberto Augusto, the director of Mozambique’s national demining institute, “so it was very strange to see them working and demining. We were thinking to grill them.”

But as the gigantic rodents (bigger than New York City sewer rats) stuffed into tiny harnesses began to sweep back and forth on ropes between their human handlers, stopping every so often to scratch and point out a landmine, it didn’t take long for the crowd to be convinced.

Don’t worry—rats aren’t sacrificed when the stumble on a mine. They’re too light to set them off.