When we talk about using animals to sniff out drugs and bombs, dogs come to mind. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, there’s an unlikely sniffer that is being used to locate land mines. These sniffers are, wait for it… the African giant pouched rats. Rodents! Imagine that. And mind you, they are not called ‘giant’ for nothing. These rats are huge, like 3 feet (91 centimeters) kind of huge. The African giant pouched rats are among the largest rats in the world and can grow up to 3 feet long, measuring from head to tail. Mother Nature must be proud of this creation.
Besides being enormous, they apparently have a good sense of smell and thus, they are able to scour the land to sniff out buried land mines. Obviously, they have to be trained to do this. Before you pick up the pitch forks and protest about this animal cruelty… it is actually not. They rats, though insanely big for rodents, they are actually very light and thus, they will not trigger the land mine if they trot over one. Moreover, they’d be getting a job, food and shelter. Though, no one ever ask if they wanted a job to begin with.
But these giant rats will be doing humans a mega favor as land mines have killed or maimed thousands of people who have bravely go out there to find and disarm them. So, if the land mines can’t harm the rats, I guess all’s good. However, there’s a catch: their level of detection aren’t 100 percent. There’s another major hurdle with using these wild rodents. Too little is known about their biology or social structure, and breeding them in captivity would be a daunting task and keeping in mind, training them to accurate pinpoint land mines is another.
As far as breeding an army of these creatures go, not all hopes are lost because, it seems that there are some positive developments, as reported by Cornell University. If you are keen to go all science-sy on the African giant pouched rats, then you may want to read up on the report posted on Phys.org. Meanwhile, have a look at one giant rodent get on with his training below.
Source: Mother Nature Network.