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Friday, December 22, 2017

Heroic rats detect land mines and now they might help save an endangered anteater.

Heroic rats detect land mines and now they might help save an endangered anteater.The pangolin, an endangered anteater that is one of the world’s most poached animals, could use a hero. Fortunately, a big rat is training for the job. Actually, 11 African giant pouched rats are. At a research center in central Tanzania, the 2-foot-long rodents are learning to detect the smell of pangolins’ armor-like scales, which are smuggled to Asia for use in sham traditional remedies. If the rats succeed, they and their twitching noses could eventually deploy to ports, national park borders and even highways to sniff out illegal shipments and help bust traffickers. The species already has a strong track record in detection. The Belgian organization APOPO has been training their “heroRATS” to find land mines for 20 years, and it says the animals have helped clear more than 100,000 mines from former war zones. In the past decade, the rats have been used to detect tuberculosis, a highly infectious disease that public health facilities often miss. They can screen 100 mucus samples in 20 minutes — a job that would take clinics four days — and APOPO says they’ve boosted TB detection by 40 percent at the clinics they work