OH RATS! Who's come to play with me today?
Rats in Colombia have been trained to sniff out landmines. More than 100,000 mines are believed to have been buried by leftist rebels in the country.
Rats have proved to be experts at finding the mines - but there was a problem. The rodents are taught to freeze in front of mines, but had difficulty staying put for fear of being attacked by predators.
Bringing them face to face with their natural enemy, the cat, allows them to stay more focused once they are released, said veterinarian Luisa Mendez, who’s been working with the animals for two years
“Here the cats play with the rats instead of attacking them,” Mendez said. “The cats wear shields on their nails so they can’t cause any injuries and as a result the rats feel comfortable playing around them.”
Col Javier Cifuentes, who oversees the project, said the rats’ success rate in mine detection is 96%. Unlike dogs, the rats weigh a lot less and therefore don’t trigger explosions.
Colombia is home to the world’s largest number of land mine victims. Last year, there were 1,108 victims, or about one every eight hours, the government says.