in cambodia, rats are being trained to sniff out land mines and save lives
When they tried to detect explosives buried in the ground, their noses approached the wet grass and flew from side to side.
Each mouse is responsible for clearing 200-square-meter (239-square-yard)patch of land.
Hulsok Heng, their Cambodian director, said they are good at it.
\"They are very good,\" he said . \"
\"Do you see this 200?
It only takes them 30 minutes or 35 minutes to clean up.
If you compare it to deminer, maybe two or three days.
Deminer will collect all the pieces, the metal on the ground, but the mouse will only collect the smell of TNT.
Not debris, metal, nails, or rubbish on the ground.
\"That\'s right: someone uses metal --
The detection machine takes longer than detecting mines with a mouse nose.
The mice in Cambodia have a lot of work to do.
The government estimates that there are between 4 million and 6 million mines or other non-explosive ammunition.
Bombs, shells and grenades.
Littering in rural areas remains of decades of conflict.
Neighboring Vietnam and Laos also have explosive ammunition left over from the Vietnam War.
Dozens of people die or die each year in the area.
There is also an economic loss as the presence of these potentially lethal devices reduces the amount of land available to farmers. Enter the rats.
These mice are not rats in the kitchen, but giant African pou rats, the Gambir pou rats, which are about 2 feet long from the head to the tail.
They have poor eyesight.
But their sense of smell is extraordinary.
Rats can detect the presence of TNT from 29 grams (about 1 ounce).
Fifteen years ago, a Belgian nonprofit called Apopo began using rod\'s sense of smell. (
The team also trained mice to detect tuberculosis).
The organization has set up a breeding program and training center in Tanzania and started deploying mice
First of all, countries in conflict between Mozambique and Angola.
Apopo, in cooperation with the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, started the Cambodia project in April.
\"The idea is very strange,\" said Theap Bunthourn, operations coordinator . \".
\"Cambodian people kill mice and don\'t like mice.
But they are cost-effective.
Efficient, easy to transport, easy to train, and will not detonate mines because they are too light.
\"This is an advantage over me --
There are also sniffing dogs in Cambodia.
Hulsok Heng, the site director, said that, unlike dogs, bonding is not a problem.
\"The mouse does not belong to anyone, it can work with anyone, unlike [a]dog. If [a]
[Handler is sick]a]
Dogs can\'t work with other people.
If the dog doesn\'t know you, it won\'t work with you.
But no problem with mice.
\"15 mice arrived in Cambodia from Tanzania on April.
Hulsok said that because Cambodia is hotter than Tanzania, they started working before the sun rises.
It was too hot for them at noon.
A mouse named Victoria from 10-
A large piece of grass in the yard, tied to a line on both sides.
Before showing me the mine planted about 7 yards away, Hulsok said: \"She is very good today and very fresh after it rained last night . \".
When Victoria is close, it could be 1 feet-and-a-
In half a place, she stopped and lifted her nose high in the air, seemingly locking something.
She took half more.
Step by step, then grab the ground.
This is the signal that she found the mine.
After the rat picks 【s]
\"We gave her a food reward, like a banana,\" said Hulsok.
\"No TNT, no bananas.
Mice learn by repetition.
They also learned the trick of not liking the handlers to fool them.
The scents may include \"the batteries we use to confuse mice, the oil filter, the car filter, the smell of canned tuna,\" Hulsok said \".
\"Because if they scratch on another scent, we don\'t give them food and rewards.
Only TNT smell
\"Another mouse, the rock star of the team called Pit, has found two mines this morning.
She is about to reach the place where they place the bait, which is called a \"dummy \".
\"The pit was not fooled by a dummy --
Not even in an instant.
Hulsok said she \"only smells like TNT \".
What about the other mice?
\"Sometimes they scratch for Dummies.
But we don\'t give them food . \"
Then the mouse will learn.
But some mice are smarter than others.
James Pursey of Apopo says it takes about 6,000 euros, or $6,500, to train each mouse.
They can live in captivity for 6 to 8 years.
Life is wonderful at the Cambodia Mine Action Centre training camp outside Siem Reap.
The mouse is locked in a separate cage.
\"Because we want to protect our investments, we have to take care of them,\" said Theap, operations manager . \".
\"We want them to stay healthy all the time so they can perform [with]
\"Even in the mine-clearing community, there are still some skeptics who don\'t trust mice.
Hulsok is not one of them.
For more than 20 years, he has been looking for and removing mines and other explosive ammunition.
He said that in the case of certain mines, he would trust a mouse, not a metal detector for any day.
\"What we call 72 Alpha, this metal is very, very small, very small detonators and pins,\" he said . \".
\"But the mouse can smell TNT, so [it]
I can pick up the mine.
But it would be great if we all had it. Without [a]
My detector, it\'s not easy to work.
\"In other words, the huge African mouse is just a tool in the mine --
Not to replace dogs and machines, but to increase them and help deal with the country\'s brutal past heritage more quickly and easily.
What happens to mice when their work life is over?
\"Basically, when it comes to the end, we notice that they slow down and we start to keep a close eye on their accuracy by adding on-site testing,\" Pursey said . \".
\"In the end, they decided not to come out of the cage and we left them there for a while until they died or they were clearly in trouble --
In this case, we carry out euthanasia on them humanly.
In the last few weeks, if they want to, they will hang out with their teammates during game time and training, but they will not go to the stadium.
Usually, they will disappear quickly once the process begins.
\"But it\'s a long way for Victoria, Pete and the other new mice.
There is a lot of work ahead of them and a lot of life to save.
The Associated Press hopes they can deploy to a real minefield by September or October.