The hero rat Magawa, who sniffed bombs and saved lives, has died. He was 8 years old.
In 2020, the rodent received a medal of honor for his mine-clearing work in Cambodia during the past five years, in which he helped locate over 100 landmines and other explosives for deactivation.
The African giant pouched rat “passed away peacefully” over the weekend, according to Belgian mine-clearing nonprofit Apopo, which cared for Magawa — their most successful rodent trainee yet. Magawa’s “amazing sense of smell” allowed “communities in Cambodia to live, work, and play; without fear of losing life or limb,” they wrote in a statement.
Born in Tanzania, Magawa trained with Apopo for a year before moving to Cambodia, where an estimated six million landmines have been buried for decades following years of war in South East Asia.
Magawa — a nearly two-and-a-half-foot, two-and-a-half-pound rat — had been in good health and “spent most of last week playing with his usual enthusiasm,” they explained. But last weekend, “he started to slow down, napping more and showing less interest in food in his last days.”
The clever creature could detect a chemical compound used to make explosives and cleared more than 1.5 million square feet of land. Magawa could survey an area the size of a tennis court in just 20 minutes.
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals in the United Kingdom awarded him with a gold medal in 2020, their first rat to earn top honors in the organization’s 77-year history, for his “life-saving devotion to duty.”
He retired in June as he began “slowing down” with age.
“All of us at Apopo are feeling the loss of Magawa and we are grateful for the incredible work he’s done,” they said in a statement.