Unusual Animals trained to be Mine Detectors

by advocateofentropy

Since several weeks heavy rain over the balkan has cost millions of people their homes and tens have died in floods and landslides. In addition to the nonstop raining, thousands and thousands of landmines are being carried around by water and mud. They could explode at any time or get burried beneath a thin layer of slime and then go off as soon as someone steps on them.
Overall the world every year more than 15.000 people die by landmines, 80% of which are civilians. Only since 1999 the Ottawa Treaty (signed by 161 countries; but neither the U.S, Russia, Israel, China, Syria, India, Saudi Arabia, Iran or Egypt seem to think of it as an desirable effort) forbids the production and usage of “anti-personnel mines”. Next to the technical approaches to this nightmare, organisations around the world have begun to explore the animals’ expertise. Mostly dogs and some cats are trained to search for mines, but there’s a fundamental problem: they’re too heavy! When a dog or cat finds a landmine it has to naturally scratch or sit on it and so triggers the explosive. But what other furry friends could we get to help us?

To tackle such problems french scientist Yves Le Conte (of the Agronomic Research Institute “Inra” in Avignon, France) and his croatian colleague Nikola Kezic (of the University of Zagreb, Croatia) since 4 years are training honey bees to sniff for TNT instead of pollen and gather at places with high “olfactoric attraction”, e.g. landmines and dud shells. In that way they can contribute to the search of explosives and help the common dog or handheld device. In the midst of June Le Conte and Kezic will have a field test with the first EU-financed TNT-sniffing bees. Let’s wish them (and their 30.000 bold wingmen) the best of luck!
Link to the german article: here.

picture alliance / Sigrid Gomber

picture alliance / Sigrid Gomber

Equally awesome, and in action since 15 years, are the HeroRats. Specially bred in Belgium by the NGO Apopo Organisation and trained at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, these 1kg-heavy fellas do not trigger an explosion when scratching on a detected mine, as sadly most trained dogs won’t survive many mine findings.
Just one week after birth these rats are accustomed to the smell of TNT, the main component of most landmines. After several weeks of training in the sand box with deactivated mines and lots of treats, the Mine Detection Rats (MDR) have to pass the final test with a maximum of two mistakes and then they’re send off into real action. (A little extra on the side: the Apopo Organisation is also working on teaching rats to sniff for Tuberculosis in human transpiration.)
Since the start of the program MDRs have been succesfully deployed in Angola, Mozambique, Cambodia and Thailand. In Mozambique alone the tiny heroes have helped to defuse more than 3.000 mines, about 27.000 pieces of ammunition and more than 1.000 bombs. Keep on rockin’ little buddies!
Link to the german article: here.

epd-bild / APOPO

epd-bild / APOPO

[If I missed any other heroic animal, please send me a link and I will fix that!]

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