Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, can help clear land mines from an area the size of a tennis court in just 30 minutes.
“This is the very first time in our 77-year history of honoring animals that we will have presented a medal to a rat,” said John Smith, chair of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a veterinary charity in the U.K.
One small mammal is responsible for helping clear unexploded ordnance and undetonated land mines out of more than 35 acres of land in Cambodia, and today he was awarded a medal commemorating the achievement.
Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, was awarded a civilian award for animal bravery by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals on Sept. 25. It’s the charity’s highest civilian honor and, according to The Associated Press, is equivalent to the George Cross, an award given to British civilians or soldiers who perform “acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger.
In the past five years, Magawa has found 39 land mines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance, clearing more than 141,000 square meters of land and making the areas safe for local communities.
Magawa, whose official job title is “HeroRAT,” works with APOPO, a Belgian organization that trains rats to find land mines. It’s estimated that 4 to 6 million land mines were laid in Cambodia since the 1970s, with at least 3 million still unaccounted for.