We interrupt our usually po-faced seriousness for a brief dose of vaguely topical cute… assuming your definition of cute extends to rodents.
You may have read and enjoyed Eliot Fintushel’s “UXO, Bomb Dog” when we published it here last year (and if not, you should, because it’s a great story), but you may not have been aware that even smaller animals can be trained to de-mine battlefields – like rats.
Trainers begin socialising the young rats to the sights, sounds, and textures of the world by walking them on wet grass, going for a ride in a lorry and interacting with humans.
Then the sniffer rats are taught to recognise the smell of metal land mine casings in return for a food reward.
Thirty sniffer rats are already being used in Mozambique, Africa, and have proved incredibly successful for the detection and removal of land mines.
The rodents are fitted to a leash before scrambling their way over a piece of ground, sniffing out any explosives.
A trained rat can clear 100 metres square in 30 minutes, equivalent to two days work for a manual de-miner.
I used to share a house with a guy who kept rats, and I can vouch for their intelligence… and their tenacity. Their ability to come when they’re called? Not so much. [via grinding.be; image by charlycoste]