Appropriate Technology: Rats Helping Humans

Posted on September 1, 2010  Comments (3)

Giant rats put noses to work on Africa’s land mine epidemic by Eliott C. McLaughlin

Bart Weetjens is the brain and Buddhist monk behind APOPO (a Dutch acronym meaning Anti-Personnel Land Mines Detection Product Development), which trains HeroRats. He said Mushi’s initial repulsion is common.

Prejudice against rats is “deep in our psyche” and has roots in the Middle Ages when the rodents were blamed for the plague, Weetjens said. He quickly cited Black Death’s rightful culprit: fleas.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines says land mines and related devices were responsible for 73,576 casualties worldwide from 1999 to 2009. Campaign data from 2007 say there were 5,426 recorded casualties, with almost a fifth of them in 24 African countries.

The cost to train a rat is 6,000 euros ($7,700), roughly a third of what it costs to train a dog. Where dogs need expansive kennel facilities and regular veterinary care because of African climates, APOPO’s kennel facilities at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania, can house up to 300 rats. The rats see a single vet once a week and are much easier to transport than dogs, Weetjens said.

It is very sad what people do to each (setting up land mines to blow each other up for example). Thankfully we also do great things. I particularly like the engineering mindset behind appropriate technology solutions as I have written many times. They are also looking to have rats help detect tb and cancers. You can fund a rat for 5 Euros (about $6.5) a month to help free the world of landmines.

Related: applying the technology wellEngineering a Better World: Bike Corn-ShellerWater Pump Merry-go-RoundHigh School Inventor Teams @ MIT

See a video of a rat at work:

3 Responses to “Appropriate Technology: Rats Helping Humans”

  1. Sam
    September 18th, 2010 @ 5:05 am

    I never thought I would be funding a rat! This is a very good cause and is logistically very clever. I wasn’t aware that rats were used to find tb and cancers – how exactly does that work?

  2. Using Rats to Sniff Out TB » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    September 1st, 2016 @ 9:42 am

    […] have written about these wonderful rats previously, Appropriate Technology: Rats Helping Humans by Sniffing Out Land Mines. As I have stated many time I especially enjoy engineering solutions that use affordable and […]

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    January 15th, 2017 @ 12:08 pm

    […] The Boy Who Harnesed the Wind – Appropriate Technology: Rats Helping Humans by Detecting Landmines – Using Drones to Deliver Medical Supplies in Roadless Areas – US Fish and Wildlife […]

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