As part of Cambodia’s efforts to boost de-mining operations in a country plagued for decades by unexploded ordinance (UXO) has launched its next generation of rat recruits to sniff out landmines.
Twenty African giant pouched rats were recently imported from Tanzania and have undergone intense training.
“They are all easy to work with and they don’t care about who their handlers are,” said handler So Malen, during an exercise on Friday for seven recruits in Preah Vihear province, bordering Thailand.
“Any one of us can be their handler and most importantly, they don’t bite.”
Scarred by decades of civil war, Cambodia is one of the world’s most heavily landmined countries, with more than 1,000 sq km (621 sq miles) of land still contaminated.
It has among the highest number of amputees per capita, with more than 40,000 people losing limbs to explosives.
The new rat batch replaces a recently retired group that includes Magawa, who found 71 landmines and 28 UXO during his five-year career, according to APOPO, an international organization that specializes in detecting landmines and tuberculosis.