Hero rats sniff (and snuff) out landmines and TB
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of CNN News
Posted: November 21st, 2016
Traditionally, you wouldn't gift someone a rat. Tanzania-based NGO Apopo, however, thinks rats make excellent gifts. So much so that they've launched an adopt-a-rat program, which allows participants to sponsor the animal. Despite the creatures' reputation for thieving and spreading disease, [Apopo's founder Bart] Weetjens has proven that rats can ... save lives. Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands. They are highly trained to sniff out land mines and detect tuberculosis - two scourges that have had a tremendously negative impact across the African continent. And his rats are fast. A single rat can clear 200 square feet in an hour (done manually, the same area would take 50 hours to clear). A TB-detection rat can evaluate 50 samples in eight minutes (almost a day's work for a lab technician). In 2006, Weetjens started testing his "hero rats," as he dubs them, on the mine fields in Mozambique, a country that at that time was one of the worst affected by landmines, thanks mainly to a civil war that ended in 1992. Since then, Apopo has cleared the country of 6,693 landmines, 29,934 small arms and ammunition, and 1,087 bombs. Mozambique is on track to be free of landmines by the year's end. In 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a TB crisis in Africa. It's a problem Weetjens realized he could address with his sniffer rats. So far, they've analyzed over 260,000 samples from health clinics in Dar es Salaam. They are cheap to train, cheaper to procure, and plentiful.
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