Monday, July 4, 2016

Victor Victorious: Good News!

Annamaria on Monday

Good things are happening all over this planet!  Here is the story of one of them.

About fifteen months ago, Michael posted here about Apopo, an organization headquartered in Tanzania, that trains Giant Pouched Rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis.

The worldwide landmine infestation was a cause that concerned me.  When, thanks to Michael, I found out that I could help in a small way to solve it by donating  $8 a month to support my own mine-detection rat, I jumped at the chance.  I got to name the little guy.  I thought about the future I wanted for him, so I chose to name him Victor!

Since then I have reported here about his birth, his growth, and his training.  It’s been a while since I updated you.  Today I am proud to report that he is fulfilling a great purpose.  In my last report, I bragged that he had proved his capability at sniffing out explosive material.   Here are some milestones that Victor has achieved since then:

March 11th—At the young age of ten months, Victor was accredted as a explosives detector in Tanzania and earned his airline ticket to his first job in Mozambique.

March 28th—He was on his way to join a 200-strong team that has, so far, returned 11 MILLION square meters of land to local Mozambique communities.  They have found and destroyed

  • ·      Landmines—13,273
  • ·      Explosive remnants of war—1,113
  • ·      Small Arms and Ammunitions—28,792

April 8th—Victor earns his International Mine Action Standards accreditation.  He gets a feast of bananas and avocados to celebrate.

April 22nd—Victor finds his first Landmine.
         **cost to me for this achievement, at that point: $96!

All this before…
May 8th—Victor’s first birthday

So on he goes.  Here is Apopo’s description of the problem he now continues to combat.

At almost three thousand, annual global landmine accidents are unacceptably tragic; 80 percent of them involve innocent people unrelated to the original conflicts; 46 percent of these are children.

Every bit as tragic, yet going largely unrecognized, is the immense and negative impact posed by landmines to the development of mine-contaminated countries such as Cambodia and Angola. Vast tracts of productive land have been rendered off-limits for decades, yet only about three percent of that land typically contains any explosive material at all. The rest sits needlessly idle, whilst desperate nearby communities are too afraid to use it.

This is where the HeroRATs step in where others fear to tread.

APOPO specifically targets large areas near towns and villages where the existence of landmines is not certain, checking them swiftly and efficiently for explosive remnants of war.

And here is great story about from Apopo’s efforts in Angola:

"For years, school children in Angola played football 20 meters from a live landmine recently detected by the HeroRats

The sight of children playing is commonplace all over the world. For youngsters in Ngola Luije Town, Angola, the landmines add an extra, and deadly dimension to their games.
Angola’s prolonged conflict was a bush war. Rural populations fled to the cities to seek refuge, whilst their towns and villages became fierce battle zones, strategic military encampments and no-go areas.
Fourteen years after the conflicts have ended, rural Angolans have returned to their villages to find themselves surrounded by explosive remnants of war such as old landmines, unexploded bombs, grenades and bullets. This leaves them unable to develop their towns and farms and makes everyday activities such as playing, agriculture, or collecting firewood, a deadly endeavor.
The children would nominate one of them to go and get the football.
In Angola, APOPO supplies mine detection rat units to its mine clearance partner NPA. Together they cleared the land surrounding Ngola Luije in 2014, which was a defensive military base during the war. In the process, a landmine was discovered less than twenty meters from the town school. It had lain hidden for over twenty years.

Francisco Mauricio, the school’s headmaster explained that while the minefields were clearly marked, the children’s football was inevitably kicked into the mine-ridden overgrowth. If no adults were around, the children would nominate someone to sneak into the minefield to retrieve it…"

 Now, thanks to Apopo's HeroRats, the danger is gone.  The children, who were at risk of losing their legs, their classmates, their lives, can play in safety.  

Mine is a hope-seeking soul.  Perhaps because I had to find my way to adulthood through some considerable obstacles, I am drawn to warmth and light.  To joy.  To dancing.  Rather than to darkness. Or despair.

Victor, and all those fabulous, patient, determined, optimistic people who make his feats possible: theirs is a road I am happy and privileged to travel.  The sunshine of hope glows at its end.  Hooray for good news!

You can find more about Apopo and how to join the fight at  


  1. How wonderful, Annamaria! Maybe we should start an adopt a rat campaign. (Strictly only the non human kind.)

    1. Michael, for me you began that campaign when you first posted about Apopo here. I highly recommend that people join in. As I said in my first post on the subject, the $8 per month hardly raises a blip on my credit card bill. It is about the cost of a cappuccino and a pastry here in NYC. And yet on a monthly basis, it buys me fun and a sense of contribution to a cause that fosters prosperity and saves the lives and limbs of children at play. I find it irresistible. I hope many among our readers will join in. I thank you for getting me started in this.

  2. This is one rat who earns his keep! Keep sniffing, Victor.

    1. Thank you, Kathy. I am proud of him. How could not be when I think of those happy children, and the food that can now be grown to sustain them.

  3. Annamaria, I had never heard of APOPO until I read your blog post, but I love the idea and decided to adopt my own rat! I named him Musse Pigg, the Swedish name for Mickey Mouse.

    1. Oh Sue, HOW GREAT! Now you must tell us about the adventures of Musse Pigg. You will get updates. I hope you will share his news with all of us!