Saturday, November 18, 2017
Hero rats sniff (and snuff) out landmines and TB.
Hero rats sniff (and snuff) out landmines and TB. Traditionally, you wouldn't gift someone a rat -- not someone you like, anyway. And even if a gift-wrapped rodent was in the cards, you'd likely shy away from the giant African pouched rat, which -- as the name suggests -- is rather large (think cat-sized). Tanzania-based NGO Apopo, however, thinks rats make excellent gifts. So much so that they've launched an adopt-a-rat program, which allows participants to sponsor the animal. "It's great for the giving season. It also works on Valentine's Day. Many people love to give their love, er, a rat," says Bart Weetjens, Apopo's founder. Weetjens' rodents have many talents. Mostly, though, they are highly trained to sniff out land mines and detect tuberculosis -- two scourges that have had a tremendously negative impact across the African continent.And his rats are fast. A single rat can clear 200 square feet in an hour (done manually, the same area would take 50 hours to clear). A TB-detection rat can evaluate 50 samples in eight minutes (almost a day's work for a lab technician