APOPO Rats Detecting Landmines and Tuberculosis

OK, this isn’t very web design related but, Christmas is nearly upon us and if you’re looking for a charity to support this year I’d like to suggest APOPO.

APOPO is a Belgium based NGO that I first came across in Ossegem Park, near the Atomium in Brussels this Summer. They had laid out a very large field of giant poppy flowers made from pottery to promote their work in clearing landmines.

Their main activity is to train African Giant Pouched rats to detect the smell of explosives and then use the trained rats to find landmines and other unexploded ordnance in two different ways.

Direct Detection In The Field

The first method involves inspecting a specific area of land in a systematic way. When a mine is detected, the rat scratches the ground to indicate that it has found something and the threat is dealt with in the traditional manner. Because the rats are so light, they do not trigger an explosion and live to go on detecting more dangerous ordnance. In fact these rats can live for up to 8 years and can cover a greater area of land each day than humans.


The second technique is called Remote Explosive Scent Tracing (REST) and is being used primarily to clear roads so that relief aid can get into post-war zones and infrastructure can get back to normal.

Rather than take the rats to the potential mine field, samples of the air and dust over the affected area are brought to the rats in a local lab. These samples are then checked by the rats for traces of explosives. This method is highly efficient as it can be used to quickly declare a zone mine free.

APOPO are also working on disease detection and are highly innovative in their problem solving approach. You can donate on their website.