Whilst travelling through Cambodia, it’s quite necessary to acknowledge and try to educate ones self on the horrors that occurred here less than half a century ago under the rule of the Khmer Rouge, primarily from 1974-1979. Like all mass destructions of life, it is almost impossible to find the right words to describe how violent, bloody and painful this period of time was for the nation.
It is estimated that during this time, up to 10 million landmines were planted across Cambodia (although there is no way of knowing for certain how many there are as records were never kept). Even though the conflict in Cambodia ended decades ago, the casualties from the conflict still occur every month as a result of the active mines and bombs that litter the country. Unfortunately it is calculated that there are still approximately 3 million mines left beneath the ground. This has a destructive effect with over 100 people per year still being injured of horrifically killed by land mines, many even innocent children who were not born at the time of the conflict.
Fortunately, there are some incredible organisations and individuals trying their hardest to clear Cambodia of its landmines and today I want to talk about a specific furry hero.
Mum if you’re reading this, look away now…
THIS is P.Derr:
P.Derr is an African Giant Pouched Rat with giant absolutely being the operative word, as I have genuinely never seen such a large rodent in my life, he resembles a dog, cat or a small human. He is one of the 260 or so rats that are trained by APOPO to detect land mines and tuberculosis across 60 different countries and he is one of the most badass rats in the world.
Clearing land mines is such a difficult task and can be incredibly dangerous for those volunteering to help. APOPO train up these giant rats, as they are too light to detonate any device but simultaneously have an unbelievable sense of smell, speeding up the clearance process enormously. One rat alone can clear 2000 square feet of land in just 20 minutes.
A rat is attached to a rope and pulled gently around an area of land by its trainer. When a landmine is detected, the rat will stop and scratch away at the area where they catch the TNT scent. The trainer marks it and it will be safety detonated later that day.
The best thing about it is, the rats only work 1-hour shifts at a time… Sounds like a great working day to me? This ensures that they safe from burning in the sun or becoming exhausted :)
Listen, I just think this is the coolest thing in the world and I HAD to share. These rats are saving lives every single day and I will continue to be in awe of the trainers and APOPO for all their hard work. Head over to their website to read more about what they do and you can even sponsor your own little friend :)
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