It’s true – a team of super ‘HeroRATS’ in Mozambique have been trained to complete lifesaving missions. Rats are able to sniff out TNT in landmines and indicate its presence to their trainers, so the mines can be uncovered and disposed of safely. The mines pose no threat to the rats as their little feet are too small to trigger an explosion.
Landmines are not just a problem for those unfortunate enough to tread on them; fear of the hidden dangers can hold back development on huge areas of land and keep whole communities from making the most of local resources.
A fully trained up HeroRAT can clear 100 m2 in just 20 minutes and the best thing is, they don’t cost much to look after – in fact they’ll work for peanuts!
As if this amazing talent wasn’t enough, APOPO have also discovered that rats can be trained to sniff out diseases. Tuberculosis is responsible for over a million deaths worldwide every year and often goes undetected, leading to further infections. The HeroRATS are trained to detect TB bacteria in human sputum samples and are rewarded with a treat for their efforts.
Finding the infected samples in this way is much quicker than traditional laboratory methods using a microscope. By helping to ensure that infected people are removed from crowded areas and given appropriate treatment the HeroRATS are helping to stop the rapid spread of this deadly disease.
The trainers of these special rodents have come to really enjoy working with their pint-size partners who all have their own unique personalities! To read more about their amazing work have a look at the HeroRAT website where you can adopt one of the brave little fellas and support their life saving work for just 5 euros a month!
Your very own HeroRATS
Rats make wonderful pets and have several advantages over other popular ‘small furries’. They are less likely to bite than hamsters and not quite as quick as gerbils so make perfect pets for children. Rats are incredibly sociable and will just enjoy hanging out with you. They can even be trained to do tricks for food! Female rats tend to be more active whereas male rats are a little lazier and will happily snooze on your lap. It’s best to get a pair of rats to live together as they thrive on social interaction. Make sure you get rats of the same sex otherwise you may end up with a big surprise three weeks later!
Here are a few things you will need for your first rats…
Rats need a large home so they have room to play and exercise when you are not around to let them out. Cages with plenty of height are great for rats as they love to play on lots of different ropes, ladders and other hanging toys. Our Rat & Ferret Cage Furet Tower will give your ratties plenty of opportunity for adventures with five different levels to run around on! It also comes with tunnels, water bottle, food bowl and a hammock. To keep everything smelling nice you’ll need to take out droppings every day and clean out the cage fully once a week using an animal safe cleaning spray such as Savic Refresh’r Household Cleaning Spray.
Food and Water
Fresh water should always be available using a ball-valve water bottle (water in a bowl can easily be tipped over or dirtied). Rats are omnivores so thrive on a varied diet. Whole grain rice with some good quality dog food for protein is ideal along with some fresh fruit and veg as a snack. If you are feeding a complete mix make sure your rats are eating all of it and not just picking out their favourite bits. Our JR Farm Rat Food is a complete diet which includes all essential vitamins and minerals as well as important animal proteins.
Toys and Treats
Rats love snoozing in a cosy hammock. Our Hammock Relax de Luxe Fake Fur will soon become your rat’s favourite hang out with its soft furry fabric and the double level making it suitable for more than one rat at a time. Play tunnels are also great fun for rats to play and sleep in.
Don’t forget zooplus has a wide range of snacks and treats available for rats. You can use food rewards to train your pet rat to do tricks, just like the HeroRATS!
.Photo credits: HeroRAT in training (top left) – Xavier Rossi. Screening for tuberculosis (top right) – Sylvain Piraux.