70. Rescue Rats and Explosives

31 Mar

FACT: Rats are good sniffers. In fact they can smell explosives.

These are the snappily dubbed ‘Hero Rats’ (I prefer my name Rescue Rats). These rats are trained over the course of 5 months to sniff out TNT, and other components in land mines, allowing them to effectively act as cheap mine detectors in countries such a Mozambique and Angola where live mines maim thousands.a major component in most buried landmines.

It works like this; the rats wander around on leashes, sniffing for the tiny particles released by the mines. When they find a land mine, they react.

They scratch at it. Don’t worry, the rats are too light to set off the land mines so don’t worry, no rat has ever been blown up… by searching for mines. Anyway, once they identify a site the mine is then safely detonated. In this aspect the rats are identical to specially trained dogs, however they have an advantage over the hounds. They are cheap and effective, costing less than half of trained dogs. A real boon for the poor countries whom most require this service.

How effective are these rats?

In 2010 the rats were sent out to Mozambique, by the end of the year they had cleared a swathe of land as large as 100 football fields, getting rid of over 800 mines. A change that makes a real difference to those living there. In  2011 they hope to move into Angola and help save thousands more from injuries or death.

This is however, not the full extent of the rats powers. The same man, Bart Weetjens, has gone further, training his rats to sniff out a real epidemic in Africa, tuberculosis. By sniffing samples and smelling which harmful substances are contained within, a rat can take just 1/200th of a second to find whether or not a sample contains tuberculosis or not. By combining multiple rats they have a 98% effective system for tuberculosis detection, something more effective even than microscopes.Last year, 25 rats alone, stopped over 9,000 cases of spreading tuberculosis and confirmed hundreds of samples tested with microscopes.

The wonders of rats indeed.

For more information watch this talk by the man behind the ‘Hero Rats’.

Alternatively click here to visit the official website.

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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in Articles, Trivia


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