Magawa was recently awarded a gold medal for “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty” for detecting land mines in Cambodia.
But who is Magawa?
It is an 8-year-old African giant pouched rat!
The award was bestowed on Magawa by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a veterinary British charity. PDSA initiated these awards in 2002 and the award is very often known as the “animal’s George Cross” after an honor awarded to civilians for their acts of courage, bravery, and heroism.
In winning the honour, Magawa became the first rat ever to receive this prestigious prize. He is also the first non-canine to be bestowed this award.
And Magawa’s work is significant: he has discovered around 39 land mines and dozens of pieces of unexploded ordnance. Moreover, in his long career spanning seven years, he has helped clear more than 1.5 million square feet of land over the past four years.
“Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these land mines,” said Jan McLoughlin, the director general of the charity, which bestowed the award in an online ceremony. “Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.”
“Magawa’s dedication, skill and bravery are an extraordinary example of this and deserve the highest possible recognition,” Ms. McLoughlin said.
Magawa has been trained by APOPO, which stands for Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling in Dutch, or Anti-Personnel Landmines Removal Product Development in English, a non-profit organization based out of the African country of Tanzania. These rodents are much quicker than humans in discovering the landmines, partly because of their light weight and acute sense of smell. Magawa can search for a mine in an area of the size of a tennis court in a mere 30 minutes; this same area would take a person with a metal detector four days to scan!
“When Magawa detects a landmine by the chemicals used in it, he signals to his handler. They know that where Magawa signals is the exact location because his sense of smell is so good, and so can dispose of the mine safely,” PDSA said.
Doesn’t Magawa absolutely deserve this honour? What do you think?