Today, many parts of the world are torn by strife and conflict. In fact, human history is replete with incidents of war, death and destruction. A favored method of continuing collateral damage of wars by enemy countries has been mining, the process of burying explosives under the ground, which are triggered by pressure at a later date, resulting in deaths and/or maiming.
About a third of the world, or approximately 59 countries, are littered with landmines. According to statistics in 2012, 1,066 people were killed by them, leaving 2,552 injured, reports Gizmodo.
APOPO, a Belgian non-profit has found an innovative way to deal with the problem. With their motto "We train rats to save lives," the organization has helped clear 13,200 mines from minefields in Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, and, most recently, in Cambodia, reports National Geographic.
APOPO trains the African Giant Pouched Rat, a rodent with an eight-year lifespan and a calm, trainable demeanor. The fact that the rats are lightweight enough not to trigger off the mines and can adapt to harsh environments, has added to their credo.
"Under a clear sky, [Pit] would have been quicker. These are life-saving rats," said Hul Sokheng, a Cambodian who has been working with the Apopo trainees to clear Cambodia of bombs, of a one-eyed rat named Pit who recently sniffed out a bomb in just under 11 minutes, reports Reuters.
APOPO was started in 1995 by Bart Weetjens, who as a student wanted to solve the global landmine problem. The organization has recently been selected to be a part of the United Nations Solutions Summit. Weetjens spoke about APOPO at a TED summit.
Not only do APOPO rats sniff out landmines, they are also trained to detect tuberculosis in humans. To date the super sniffers have detected 8,700 cases of TB and halted more than 35,000 potential TB infections.
Watch the rats in action.