Monday, June 7, 2021

Apopo Hero Rats in the News

 Annamaria on Monday

My thanks today go to that sterling member of the MIE tribe, our regular reader  Everett Kaser, affectionately known as EvKa. Everett knows from my posts here of my enthusiasm for African Giant Pouched Rats whose work it is to sniff out landmines and tuberculosis.  

Here is the article EvKa tagged me with on Facebook this past week.  From Huffington Post, it lauds the retirement of one of the little heroes.

Thank you, EvKa! Though I still can't sit for hours slaving over a new blog--not to mention my WIP, I can share something that feels current.  And I can give proof that we here on MIE have scooped this subject.  Thanks to Michael's first post on Apopo, MIA readers got to know in 2015 what HuffPo readers only just discovered.  

My adopted hero rat has been working at mine detection for six years now.  For a monthly donation that is tantamount to invisible in the total of my credit card bill, I get bragging rights to Victor!  I gave him that name so apt for a hero.  And he has been victorious!  Here is my post from five years ago to prove my point. 


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. Now that dogs have proved to be almost as successful as the swab tests to detect covid, I wonder if anyone has tried Victor and his relatives? Time for a hero rat breeding program?

    1. Funny, Michael, I thought of sniffing rats a year ago when we in NYC were hampered in our response by a lack of Covid testing. I know that Victor’s brothers and sisters can detect tuberculosis. I wonder how long it would take to train them to detect Covid. As you say, sniffer dogs can do it. Why not rats?

      Once again, I thank you profusely for telling us about Apopo!!!

  2. Annamaria, I read your initial post several years ago about APOPO and immediately signed up to adopt a rat. I'm currently sponsoring Shuri, who works in Angola clearing landmines. I enjoy the monthly updates about her progress. Thanks for helping to publicize this great charity!

    1. How lovely, Sue. I am so glad you have joined in. Let’s hope that members of HuffPo’s vast audience—now that they too know—will also join up!

  3. Replies
    1. isn’t, Kwei! I imagine the medical rats are also rally a help. I think about people who have to walk for four hours to a clinic. With instant diagnosis, Thye won’t have to return to find out if they are positive!

  4. Truly, one of the all-time great stories, AmA!

    1. let’s thank Michael, EvKa. He opened this door for us!

  5. Once again, you're ahead of the curve, sis. Or, perhaps in this instance, better put as you're up there on the ramparts alerting us how best to detect the wild curve we've all been thrown.