If there's one animal that's widely despised it's the rat. Yet some people are really fond of them and keep them as pets. There's a chat room called Rattit, and comments from these 'ratophiles' are funny and interesting. Like ... Sweetest, most loving pets I've every had... Rats are amazing pets... The one I had loved to cuddle with my cat and was also litter trained... My best friend Charley died today as a result of a botched neutering operation. I'll miss you little man... My sweet Truffle is getting older and a bit skinny but she's loving being spoiled more than ever.
Now there is news about a species of rat native to sub Saharan Africa, called the African Giant Pouched Rat. Intelligent, about the size of a small dog, the rodent is like a cross between a rat and a hamster.
Bart Weetjens is a Belgian product designer who worked in the field of mine clearing. These land mines are just under the ground and kill and injure thousands of people each year. Weetjens had pet rats as a child, and realized these native rats could be trained to sniff out the mines. He formed Apopo, a nonprofit organization, to train rats to do this task.
With their extremely sensitive sense of smell they will sense where a mine is buried.This sensitivity increases with training. They don't weigh enough to set off the mines. When they find one they just scratch the surface, so people know it's there and can safely detonate the mine. Because of the work of the rats, Mozambique has now been cleared of nearly all its land mines and a similar project is happening in Angola.
It was also discovered that the rats could be sniff out the smell of tuberculosis, and detect carriers of the disease, formerly very difficult to diagnose.
I don't think we should only value animals because they are of use to humans. But for humans who think rats are filthy pests that deserve to be killed, maybe they need to think again. The African Giant Pouched Rat saves lives.
The photos can be found at http://imgur.com/gallery/IMxSM. Follow this link for more photos and information.
And don't forget you can help Apopo with its valuable humanitarian work by Adopting a HeroRat.