Hero mine-clearing rat Magawa who was awarded bravery medal dies

A mine-detecting rat "hero" who was awarded the animal equivalent of a George Cross for successfully locating landmines has died at the age of eight.

Magawa the rat discovered 71 landmines and 28 unexploded munitions in Cambodia, clearing a whopping 34 acres in his five-year career.

The little hero, who was trained by the Belgium-registered charity APOPO, reportedly "passed away peacefully at the weekend".

The African giant pouch rat spent "most of last week playing with his usual enthusiasm" but carers noticed he had "started to slow down" and become less interested in food in his final days.

The charity said in a statement: "All of us at APOPO are feeling the loss of Magawa and we are grateful for the incredible work he’s done.

"During his career, Magawa found over 100 landmines and other explosives, making him APOPO’s most successful HeroRAT to date.

"His contribution allows communities in Cambodia to live, work, and play; without fear of losing life or limb."

Magawa retired last June after the hero rat's handler Malen said the rodent was beginning to "slow down" and it was time to "respect his needs".

The giant African pouched rat could sniff out explosives ninety six times faster than other conventional solutions, and was recognised for his work with a miniature PDSA Gold Medal.

APOPO added: "Every discovery he made reduced the risk of injury or death for the people of Cambodia."

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Speaking last June, his handler Malen told the BBC: "Magawa's performance has been unbeaten, and I have been proud to work side-by-side with him.

"He is small but he has helped save many lives allowing us to return much-needed safe land back to our people as quickly and cost-effectively as possible."

Magawa's intensive training began when the rodent was just four weeks old.

Before graduating APOPO and working in the field, Magawa had to pass a blind test where a number of improvised landmines were hidden in a 400m2 area.

Following the achievement, Christophe Cox, CEO and cofounder of APOPO, said: "To receive this medal is really an honour for us. I have been working with APOPO for over 20 years.

"Especially for our animal trainers who are waking up every day, very early, to train those animals in the morning.

"But also it is big for the people in Cambodia, and all the people around the world who are suffering from landmines. The PDSA Gold Medal award brings the problem of landmines to global attention."

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