Specially Trained Rats 'Will Save Lives' By Looking For Disaster Survivors

Jun 11, 2022 by apost team

The movie "Stuart Little" is a great story about how one mouse can change the world. And it turns out it's not that far off from reality. Many people may not realize that rats greatly impact a special task. Created over two decades ago, APOPO is a nonprofit organization that trains pouched rats to save lives. These rats are ultimately trained to help relief efforts during a disaster. These brave and smart animals are a part of the "HeroRats" program within the nonprofit. 

The organization was officially started in 1997 in Belgium, and the official rat training began shortly after in 1998. The organization bred its own rats and created the first domestic breed of the 'African Giant Pouched Rat.' In 2000 APOPO moved to Tanzania, where they established training grounds and offices for themselves and their growing nonprofit. The first set of trials was to detect Tuberculosis amongst a rise in cases in places like Africa, of which the rats could smell the onset off in humans. The next large task was to start detecting landmines. Here, the little furry helpers excelled. In 2022, APOPO has turned their attention toward training their rats to help find survivors of an earthquake or similar disaster. 

The nonprofit organization has 170 rats that they believe are more than capable of search and rescue work. In fact, APOPO believes that this breed of animal is meant for meaningful work and tasks such as this. Therefore, the rats are given state-of-the-art technology fitted for their task. This means these little critters sport little red vests equipped with cameras. 

Although the large team of trained rats has yet to be active in a real-life disaster, APOPO said the team is more than prepared for anything that may come their way. 

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In June of 2022, scientist Dr. Donna Kean, working with the rats, shared that these animals are ideal for this line of work. She told The Telegraph, "They are perfect for search and rescue-type work." Dr. Kean said that they are very helpful because of their unique adaptability. "They are very good at surviving in different environments which just shows how suitable they are for search and rescue work," Dr. Kean said

Rats can be known to be dirty and are often rumored to carry diseases, but Dr. Kean shared that APOPO takes quality care of their team. 

"There is a misconception they are dirty and unhygienic. They are well looked after with us," she shared. Kean told Science.org that once people are introduced to the rats, they understand their job's importance.

"There may be issues if people have a fear of rats or animals. But wherever they're introduced and used for this purpose, there can be marketing campaigns so people know that this can happen. They'll also have a backpack on, and they'll have a microphone, light, and camera. There can be audio coming from the backpack that potentially says, "I am a RescueRat, I'm here to help you," that kind of thing," she shared

The organization shared that the large team of rats has yet to participate in an active situation. However, Dr. Kean revealed that this special team would bring a large impact when the time comes.

​​"We hope it will save lives, the results are really promising," Dr. Kean said


Have you ever heard of HeroRats? This organization leads the way in such a cool and helpful life-saving task! If you found this article inspiring— make sure to pass it on to someone you know! 

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