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Clicker trained "wonder rats" save lives in Africa

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In Mozambique, clicker trained rats save the day--and save lives. From Ireland's Corkman:

Landmines are a huge problem in Mozambique. The country's villages, farming land and roads are a patchwork of minefields, planted by both sides during the 16-year long civil war. The mines remain active, despite the fact that the war ended many years ago. They continue to kill and injure Mozambicans, preventing normal daily activities like farming and movement through the countryside.

Landmines are remarkably difficult to remove. Armored mine-clearance vehicles are only effective on level, smooth surfaces. Metal detectors locate any metal object, leading to numerous false alarms. Dogs are good at detecting the explosives in landmines, but they are heavy enough to trigger the landmines themselves, and they tend to get bored with the repetitive work.

The idea of using rats as mine detectors is brilliant. Rats have a highly developed sense of smell and are easy to tame and train, as my ten year old rat-owning daughter will tell you. They are small, cheap and easy to maintain and transport. They are very adaptable, living comfortably in all sorts of environments. And once they have been taught a task, rats love to perform repetitive tasks. They are more easily transferred between trainers compared to dogs, since for rats, the key motivating factor is the food reward rather than the social kudos of impressing their owner.

 Read the whole article here.


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