A favorite of Red Room author Laurel Anne Hill.
Founder: Bart Weetjens
Year founded: 1996
Mission: HeroRAT was launched by its parent organization, Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development (Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende ProductOntwikkeling or APOPO), a social enterprise that researches, develops, and deploys detection rat technology for humanitarian purposes.
- APOPO's HeroRATS are currently working to clear minefields in Mozambique. They have allowed 1,074 families to return to their land and cleared land necessary for the passage of power lines to a village of 10,000 Mozambicans. They are likely to finish one year ahead of schedule in 2013.
- APOPO has been working with four health centers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and over a sixteen-month study increased tuberculosis detection rates at these four health centers by 31%.
Profile: APOPO, a non-profit organization, trains African Giant Pouched Rats to detect land mines and tuberculosis. Bart Weetjens, a Belgian national, founded APOPO to provide a low-technology solution to the global land mine problem. Once the effectiveness of the rats had been proven, he further realized that they are capable of detecting active tuberculosis in human sputum samples. APOPO calls these rats HeroRATS because this technology is cheaper and more efficient than most widely available mine clearance and TB detection techniques. APOPO's overall objective is to use sniffer rats to save human lives.
Landmines hamper reconstruction and the delivery of aid, hold up the repatriation of refugees and displaced people, and deprive some of the poorest people of land and infrastructure, therefore hindering access to social and economic development. Africa is struck more by the landmine legacy than any other continent on the planet. A trained HeroRAT can clear 100 m2 in 20 minutes, equivalent to two days work for a manual deminer.
HeroRATs are trained to detect and pinpoint the location of a landmine. Their size and weight make it highly unlikely they would set of a pressure-activated mine by scratching or pointing. It is a misunderstanding that the rats are trained as Kamikaze to destroy the mines in the field. Trained animals are far too precious to lose to landmines. On the contrary, the rats used by APOPO are treated with great care and attention in order to optimize their physical and mental condition.
-Huntington W. Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room
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