A species of giant African pouched rat is being utilised across Cambodia as mines and other hidden explosive devices are being cleared and defused.

These hidden dangers are spread throughout Cambodia due to previous military attempts at defence and protection throughout wartime. These bombs were left after the fact and have remained ever since, most being highly deadly. They restrict farmland and fields and cause issues for the safety of what was once fertile land, heavily used by farmers to create income for their families. Many farmers are forced to work their possibly mine-ridden land while the imminent danger of an explosion being a constant anxiety.

The year of the rat however spells an end to these major troubles for Cambodia. A species of giant African pouched rat, the Gambian giant rat, has been studied to have a knack for sniffing out TNT. This ability has been seen in other animals, dogs of various breeds, but is most pronounced in the Gambian giant rat. These rats are trained from infancy to be able to work around humans; teaching the rats is not easy but using Pavlov’s basics scientists and behaviourists are able to train the rat to respond to a click as a reward for tasks such as finding a TNT scented spot in a controlled environment. This is escalated over a long period of training to which point a trained rat will be able to find an explosive, the rats themselves are light enough to not trigger the mines, and humans will mark where it is. These rats hasten the de-mining process significantly and are the main reason why many families are being freed of the danger of mines during their everyday lives.

Daniel Akin