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THE VALUE OF AFRICAN RATS

Author:
Nana Assange
Date:
2018-05-06 07:10:44


Move Over Pizza Rat

New York’s “pizza rat” might have wowed the world, but a species of African rat has developed a smell for something a lot more dangerous – and is saving lives in the process, Alexandra Wexler writes in the Wall Street Journal.

The African giant pouched rats’ “keen sense of smell allows them to sniff out explosives faster, and more reliably, than traditional minesweeping technology,” Wexler writes. “The rats’ noses are so hypersensitive that they can detect tuberculosis in sputum samples more accurately than local lab tests and ferret out criminals trying to smuggle endangered species.”

“According to Apopo, a nonprofit founded in Belgium that breeds and trains the rats, it could take a person with a metal detector up to four days to clear an area the size of a tennis court. In some countries, such as Colombia, where many mines were homemade, the relative lack of metal components makes the going slow.”

The rats, in contrast, can clear an area that size in about 30 minutes. And, in case you’re wondering, the rats aren’t considered expendable: “[A]t 2 to 3 pounds in weight, the rats are too light to set off a land mine.”



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