Hero Rats Detect Land Minds

January 5th, 2015


Rats are another loathsome species – creatures that for whatever reason (the way they look, or smell, or false beliefs about them) get a bad rap. But when we’re willing to open our minds a bit and take a closer look at species that sometimes give us the creeps, we’re often surprised and humbled by what we learn.

Rats in Tanzania are being trained to sniff out landmines so de-miners can more quickly and efficiently clear explosives from the ground. It takes two de-miners a day to clear a 2,150 square foot minefield, but if they work with two rats they can sweep it in two hours.


Every hour a person is maimed or killed by a landmine somewhere in the world. Finding and removing them is expensive and extremely dangerous.

Traditionally, dogs have done the job of sniffing out landmines. But rats are lightweight and less apt to set off a mine. They have an acute sense of smell, are not as susceptible to tropical disease as canines, are easily motivated by food, and they work well alongside humans once trained.


The landmine-sniffing rats are trained Pavlovian-style. When a rat stops to sniff the odor of an explosive, the trainer alerts with a loud click (using a clicker similar to those employed by some dog trainers) and gives the rat a food reward. Field training involves planting mines with detonators removed for the rats to detect. The rodents wear little vests attached to a cable that runs between two trainers.

,p>The rats move in a straight line along the cable, and when they locate a position over buried explosive material, they signal by scratching the ground. After nine months to a year of training, the rats find the explosives with amazing speed.


Rats are also being used to detect tuberculosis (TB), a leading cause of death in some African countries, in lab samples. A lab tech can only test around 20 samples a day, but a single rat can test up to 2,000 samples in the same day.

The uses for rats in detecting smells are limitless. The founder of the Tanzanian ‘Hero Rat’ project, Bart Weetjens, thinks the next frontier would be to use trained rats to sniff out narcotics or to search for survivors of disasters such as earthquakes or collapsed buildings.

Find out more about these awesome rats at https://www.apopo.org/en/

Take The Ivory Free Pledge!

December 30th, 2014

CGI_Annual_Meeting_9/23/14_5:27:23 PM_Plenary_Session_Putting_Ed

WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Save the Elephants and Animal Planet are calling on the public to do its part to end the ivory poaching crisis by taking the Ivory Free pledge at Ivory Free. The new campaign asks consumers to pledge to never buy, own or accept ivory as gifts, and to support stronger government bans and actions to tackle the illegal ivory trade.

Says African Wildlife Foundation CEO Patrick Bergin: “It’s about building a critical mass of support. The more people who sit up and pay attention to what is happening to Africa’s elephants; the more people who champion this cause and demand action from their governments on this crisis, the harder it will be to ignore the uproar.”

Animal Planet

The Ivory Free partnership has been launched in conjunction with the premiere of “Saving Africa’s Giants with Yao Ming”—a new program that follows WildAid ambassador and former NBA star Yao Ming on a journey to Africa to see its natural beauty and witness the devastating elephant and rhino poaching crises. The ivory-free website and program are part of a larger ivory demand reduction campaign involving WildAid, AWF and Save the Elephants, featuring celebrities in public service announcements aired throughout China and other countries.

“We all share this planet with each other and with these majestic animals. We all have a responsibility to do something to save Africa’s elephants. We all have to do our part. I’m doing mine, and you can do yours by going to Ivory Free and taking the pledge,” says WildAid Ambassador Yao Ming.


This is a global problem that requires global solutions, from both individuals and governments. Take the pledge with African Safari Company at Ivory Free and commit your promise to never buy or accept ivory. Together and with constant continued conservation efforts around the world, we can make a difference!

“Saving Africa’s Giants with Yao Ming”  was co-produced by WildAid, Natural History New Zealand and Animal Planet. The film features the work of WildAid, Save the Elephants, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Daphne Sheldrick and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Dr. Will Fowlds, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, African Wildlife Foundation, Tusk Trust, Kenya Wildlife Service, and South African National Parks.

Croc Catches A Piggy Back From Hippo

December 27th, 2014

This is the moment a cheeky little snapper crawled onto the back of a hippo for a ride across a Kruger park dam in South Africa.


The opportune shot was captured by 21 year-old field guide and wildlife photographer Richard Millar. ‘When I arrived at the dam the hippo was almost fully submerged in the mud with just his nostrils sticking out. He had a grey heron perched on his back but about 5 minutes later the heron flew away and a baby crocodile decided it was his turn!’

According to Richard the croc clambered up from behind the hippo’s ear, sprawled across his blubbery backside and stretched out for a casual ride around the dam. ‘He would sit for about 10 minutes and then go for a dip and do the whole thing again!’ When Richard left the baby croc was as cool as a cat, still stretched out and lapping up the rays on his handy hippo-lilo.


Story courtesy of African Geographic


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