Trained Rats in Cambodia Use Their Noses to Clear Minefields
The rats, which are trained to sniff out TNT, are among the most efficient tools available to Cambodians trying to rid their country of over 4 million landmines left over from the Khmer Rouge.
Between the years of 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge orchestrated a mass genocide in Cambodia that resulted in the deaths of over 2 million people -- about 25 percent of the entire country. Around this time, you also had the Vietnam War, the Cambodian Civil War, and other regional conflicts that resulted in an utter ravaging of the Cambodian countryside. Each of these events saw belligerents install millions upon millions of landmines across the country, often arbitrarily and without maps to keep track of where they all went.
Nearly 40 years later, 4 to 6 million of these landmines (and other explosives) remain active and undetonated in Cambodian soil. Cambodia has one of world's highest landmine casualty rates; a disproportionate number of these casualties are children. Landmine detection and removal is one of the country's most notable and important humanitarian projects.
Michael Sullivan of NPR reported last week on an interesting, albeit unordinary, demining strategy: trained rats.
"Enter the rats. These are not kitchen rats, but African giant pouched rats, also known as Gambian pouched rats, about two feet long from head to tail. Their eyesight is terrible. But their sense of smell is extraordinary. The rats can detect the presence of TNT in amounts starting at 29 grams (about 1 ounce)... Each rat is responsible for clearing a 200-square-meter (239-square-yard) patch of land. Their Cambodian supervisor, Hulsok Heng, says they're good at it."
Corporate sponsorship opportunity?
Sullivan's piece gives a vivid account of how the rats are trained and why they've proven to be more efficient than metal detectors or bomb-sniffing dogs. There's also an interesting look into why some people still don't trust rats in situations like this, not because they're ineffective, but because they're rats. Poor little things.
Read more at NPR.
Photo credit: Taylor Weidman / Stringer
These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.
We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.
Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.
For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.