Thursday, July 26, 2007


Rodents to the rescue
Tue Jul 24

BOGOTA, Colombia - [For] the past year, a special Colombian police unit has been locking rats in cages with cats as part of a project to train the rodents to sniff out the more than 100,000 landmines planted mostly by leftist rebels across this conflict-wracked Andean country.

Bringing the rats face to face with an enemy allows them to stay more focused once they are released, veterinarian Luisa Mendez, who's been working with the animals for two years, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

[The rodents are taught to freeze in front of mines, but had difficulty staying put for fear of being attacked by predators.]

"Here the cats play with the rats instead of attacking them," Mendez said. "The cats wear shields on their nails so they can't cause any injuries and as a result the rats feel comfortable playing around them."

Col. Javier Cifuentes, who oversees the project, said the rats' success rate in mine detection is 96 percent. Unlike dogs, the rats weigh a lot less and therefore don't trigger explosions.

Colombia is home to the world's largest number of land mine victims. Last year, there were 1,108 victims, or about one every eight hours, the government says. Nearly a quarter of the victims die from their injuries...


Blogger erp said...

Wow, leftie rebels plant land mines! Did Princess Di know about this? Question: What happens to the rats after their work is done?

Full disclosure. I don't like rats and I didn't like "Ratatouille," the movie (I like the vegetable version though). Peter O'Toole was great as the voice of the food critic, likewise the drawings were superb, but the sight of rats scurrying around a kitchen preparing food well ...

July 26, 2007 7:49 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, you're supposed to map minefields when you put them down.

But I guess that's only for Americans, like the Geneva Convention.

I read a study some years ago by a guy who led teams that dug up minefields all over the world. Even with mapped fields, digging up mines results in about one human casualty per thousand mines.

He did not mention using dogs or rats, so I guess this is new technology.

July 26, 2007 10:17 AM  

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