Magazine article Geographical

Boomtown Rats: Giant African Rats Will Soon Be Undertaking an Important and Dangerous Job in Cambodia; Locating the Millions of Unexploded Landmines Left over after over 30 Years of Conflict

Magazine article Geographical

Boomtown Rats: Giant African Rats Will Soon Be Undertaking an Important and Dangerous Job in Cambodia; Locating the Millions of Unexploded Landmines Left over after over 30 Years of Conflict

Article excerpt

Cambodia has the undesirable distinction of having the highest number of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the world, following decades of internal conflict The Cambodia-Thailand border has one of the world's highest concentrations, around two to three million, while the country as a whole had an estimated 26 million explosives dropped on it during the Vietnam War.

The Cambodia Mine/UXO Victim Information System reports that explosives caused at least 64,314 casualties between 1979 and 2013, of which 19,684 were killed and 44,630 injured.

Now the hazardous task of clearing Cambodia's landmines is about to gain a new, secret weapon; the African giant pouched rat. A partnership between the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) and APOPO --a Belgian NGO that has previously supplied rats to work in similar mine-clearing operations elsewhere in the world, including in Tanzania and Mozambique recently saw rats arriving in the country to begin playing their part in completing the goal of making Cambodia landmine-free by 2020.

'The most important reason we work with rats is that they have a very sensitive sense of smell and can be trained to detect TNT, the explosive mostly used in landmines,' says Kim Warren, Country Programme Director of APOPO Cambodia. …

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