An African giant pouched rat has been awarded a prestigious gold medal for his bravery in detecting undetonated landmines in Cambodia.

The rodent, which is identified as Magawa, received the gold medal award on Friday from the British Veterinary Charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).

The medal came after the rat sniffed out 39 landmines and 28 unexploded munitions in his distinguished career.

Magwa has also cleared more than 141,000 square metres of land, or roughly 20 football pitches, in the southeast Asian country.

It is understood that the 7-year-old had been trained by Apopo, a Belgium-registered charity based in Tanzania, which has been raising the animals it dubbed “HeroRATs” since the 1990s.

“To receive this medal is really an honour for us,” Christophe Cox, Apopo’s chief executive, was quoted as saying while speaking in the event of the rodent’s post-training certification.

“But also it is big for the people in Cambodia, and all the people around the world who are suffering from landmines.”

Magwa the Hero rat on duty (credit: PDSA/PA

Born in Tanzania, Magawa weighs 1.2kg and is 70cm long.

While Magwa is believed to be larger than many other rat species, he is light enough that he does not trigger mines if he walks over them.

“HeroRats” are taught to detect a chemical compound in explosives while ignoring scrap metal in their search. Once they find an explosive, they scratch the top to alert their human co-workers.

Magawa is also said to be capable of searching a field the size of a tennis court in just 20 minutes, something Apopo said would take a person with a metal detector between one and four days.

Jan McLoughlin, PDSA director-general, further described the rat’s work with Apopo as “truly unique and outstanding”.

“Magawa’s work saves the lives of men, women, and children impacted by these landmines. Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people,” she further added.

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