Until now, removing mines has been the job of technicians with bomb-proof lorries and metal detectors. But metal detectors cannot trace mines made of wood or plastic or distinguish unexploded mines from shrapnel. Now scientists have shown that rats can be trained to be a safe, fast, reliable and cheap method of locating mines of all kinds, according to this month's issue of BBC Wildlife, published today.
Mr Weetjens used "clicker training", now popular with dog trainers in Britain. When a rat did something he wanted to encourage, he pressed a plastic clicker and rewarded the animal. Eventually the rats would perform for the clicks alone, provided they were rewarded later.