How did 'Hero Rats' sniff out landmines in Cambodia change former soldiers?

by APOPO's HeroRATs

Anti-Personsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling (APOPO) , a social enterprise based in Tanzania, is working in Cambodia with Hero Rats , mice trained to clear landmines. Anthropologist Darcie DeAngelo reported on how such hero rats changed the culture surrounding landmine removal activities in Cambodia with their innate loveliness.

How Rats Are Overturning Decades of Military Norms – SAPIENS

According to Mr. DeAngelo, who has been involved in landmine removal activities in Cambodia since 2010, the military image is ingrained in the organization that conducts landmine removal activities in Cambodia. This is because many of the deminers, known as ``deminers,'' are former soldiers, and the deminers call their teams ``platoons,'' in a military style, and wear uniforms with military uniform motifs.

Deminer risks his life to clear landmines, but when he introduces himself to locals as a member of the mine clearance platoon, he is often met with distrust. This is because the Cambodian government has seized land from villagers and suppressed those who dissent from the government by forceful means. It's from There are also rumors that Deminer who pretended to be a military police arrested an environmental activist who was against dam construction and deforestation.

Due to these problems, deminers who are active in minefields are called 'ghost heads' after the warning signs of skulls, and a deep rift lies between them and Cambodian citizens. Mr. DeAngelo seems to have been told by a village woman that `` Deminer is no different from the military police ''.

APOPO's Hero Rats changed that situation. The savannah African rat native to Africa, which will be able to find landmines in 9 months of training, is cheaper than mine detection dogs and exhibits higher accuracy than metal detectors that react to metals other than mines. Also, although it weighs 3 pounds (about 1.3 kg) and has a physical condition of 3 feet (about 90 cm), it is huge as a mouse, but the mine does not react, so it is possible to walk around the minefield without difficulty.

However, it was not the performance as a mine detection animal that Hero Rats changed the landmine removal activities until then, but the cuteness. People who were in a bad mood smiled when they saw their adorable appearance, which has become accustomed to humans and responds to footsteps and clapping, and sometimes climbs on human hands and feet.

The Deminers, who were captivated by the Hero Rats, applied sunscreen to the Hero Rats' ears, limbs, and tails every morning, and began to laugh while stroking and holding them. A woman who turned from a soldier into a deminer calls her partner, Hero Rats, her sister. Another Deminer said, 'At first I thought rats were vermin, but now they feel like best friends.'

This kind of interaction is also used in APOPO's public relations activities. Photos of people dressed in commemorative costumes may also be uploaded.

Demilitarization of the organization is critical to the success of demining operations. This is because a rigid military communication system with strict hierarchies and chains of command delays the discovery of mines and puts more lives at risk.

Even if the organization changes, the image of Deminer among the villagers who have been subjected to state violence will not change overnight. However, the Deminers are gradually starting to let go of their military style, and the image used for publicity is not Deminer staring into the distance with a stern look like a soldier, but a rat tickling his neck and laughing friendly. Appearance has come to be used.

DeAngelo said these changes could one day erase the negative image surrounding landmine clearers in Cambodia.

in Creature, Posted by log1l_ks