In the latest edition of Heifer International's
World Ark magazine, I first learned about HeroRat
, a project launched by the Belgian research organization APOPO
. HeroRat trains rats how to detect buried landmines.
Even if this isn't an issue that would normally attract your attention, you should pay a visit to the HeroRat site
. With photos, videos, cartoons, really cute graphics, and even a video game, it's one of the best fundraising websites I've ever seen.
Why landmine-detecting rats? Here's the story in a nutshell. Every 20 minutes, a civilian is hurt or killed by a buried landmine in war zones around the world. Metal detectors are slow and tedious, bulldozers don't work on uneven terrain, and mine-detecting dogs can set off the mines.
Rats, on the other hand, have a great sense of smell, are easily trained to do repetitive tasks, are inexpensive to breed, feed, and transport, and they are too light to trigger the mines. One trained rat can clear 100 square meters of land in 30 minutes. At the HeroRat training center in Tanzania, hundreds of rats are being trained to detect mines, then sent where they are needed around the world.
Of course, the real heroes here are the people that came up with this brilliant concept: Bart Weetjens, Christophe Cox, and Mic Billet, now APOPO's chairman. They first began exploring the problem of land mines in Africa in 1995, and persevered for many years to find funding and a solution. The first team of HeroRats completed their training in 2004. You can read the full story here
If you adopt a HeroRat for as little as 5 euros per month (about $7 USD), you'll receive emails from your rat, pictures of your rat in action, and an official adoption certificate, all of which I'll bet are every bit as cute as the website.
Labels: hero stories, social action