Magawa, the rat famous for his ability to sniff and detect mines and who received a gold medal for his heroic actions in this regard, has died at the age of eight.
During its five-year career, the rodent has discovered more than 100 landmines and other explosives in Cambodia.
One of the most successful rats was Magawa, whom the Belgian charity Abobo trained to alert miners in mines so that they could be removed safely.
The association said the giant African rat “died peacefully” over the weekend.
She added that Magawa was in good health and had “spent most of the last week playing with her usual enthusiasm.” But by the end of the week, “his movement started to slow down and he began to sleep more and showed less interest in food during his last few days.”
Magawa trained for a year in Tanzania, where he grew up, before moving to Cambodia to begin his career as a bomb sniffer. It is believed that there are as many as six million landmines in this Southeast Asian country.
Magawa was trained to detect a chemical compound inside explosives and has surveyed more than 141,000 square meters of land – the equivalent of 20 football fields.
The rat weighed 1.2 kilograms and was 70 centimeters long. Although much larger than many other rat species, Magawa was small and light enough not to detonate mines when stepped on.
Magawa was able to complete the search for a court the size of a tennis court in just 20 minutes, which Abobo said would take between one and four days for someone with a metal detector.
In 2020, Magawa received a gold medal from the BDSA Animal Foundation “for her dedication to saving lives.” Magawa was the first rat to receive the medal in the association’s 77-year history.
The rat retired last June, having “slowed down” on reaching old age.
“All of us at Abobo feel the loss of Magawa and are grateful for the wonderful work he has done,” the charity said in a statement.
She added that her “incredible sense of smell” has enabled “Cambodian communities to live, work and play without fear of losing a life or a limb.”
Abobo has been breeding his animals – known as hero rats or “hero rats” – to detect landmines since the 1990s.