Training rats to save lives
Photo by Sylvain Piraux / APOPO
In the popular imagination, the link between rats and human well-being is a negative one, shaped by fears of disease. In the hands of APOPO, however, the equation has been reversed. Based in Morogoro, the humanitarian organization has spent the last 15 years honing its unique approach to training rats as mine detectors, and exported this ‘technology,’ despite initial skepticism, to four countries in Africa and South East Asia. Cheaper, quicker and lighter than conventional de-mining methods, APOPO’s African Giant Pouched Rats – endemic to sub Saharan Africa – have helped return more than 6 million square meters of suspected minefields to local populations in Mozambique alone.
The organization has also continued to innovate, diversifying into the field of public health by training the same
‘HeroRATs’ to detect tuberculosis in human sputum samples – a faster, more accurate diagnostic method capable of screening thousands of patients every month.