New Angola landmine rats – refresher training

Update on rat reinforcements in Angola.

It has been an exciting month for the mine detection rat (MDR) team in Angola as they welcomed 16 new landmine detecting HeroRATs on May 11th. Angolan MDR Supervisor Alfredo Adamo eagerly received the rats and was very pleased to report that they arrived in good health and settled easily into their new home in Uíge Province about 300 kilometers from the capital city of Luanda.

Upon arrival in a new country the rats must first acclimatize to their new surroundings and handlers. MDR Training Manager and APOPO veteran Abdullah Mchomvu flew from Tanzania to Angola on May 16th to help the new rats settle in. He stayed for a month to conduct comprehensive MDR Handler refresher courses for the entire Angolan team including updating everyone on the new animal welfare standard practices. By the beginning of June the rats began regular training with their eight new handlers.

“My colleagues in Angola did very well on the refresher course and the new rat recruits have been showing very strong performance on the training minefield as they gear up for independent accreditation. I am confident they will all pass without fail.” said Abdullah.

Angola’s national demining authority and our partner the National Intersectoral Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Assistance (CNIDAH), was informed of the new HeroRATs arrival and on June 11th they arrived to prepare the testing field and to bury the “blind” targets. Our team in Angola has been informed that assessment test date will be set for early July following positive observations from training sessions.

The assessment tests will be overseen by CNIDAH and meet the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) meaning each rat has to search an area of 200m2 in under 40 minutes and find every single landmine or unexploded ordnance (UXO), with no rat permitted more than 1 false positive. Each test box will contain 2 landmines, which are buried at 5cm deep and 10cm deep.

Over the past few weeks the Angolan handlers under the watchful eye of Tanzanian supervisor Abdullah have been patiently helping the rats get up to speed for their life-saving mission. Once the new recruits pass their CNIDAH assessment tests it will show not only what a great job their new handlers are doing but also how adaptable African pouched rats are.

The 16 new mine detection rats (MDR) will be providing much needed extra capacity to the project, joining the four veteran MDR that have been supporting our partner Norwegian People’s Aid since 2012. In that time, the MDR have significantly increased the speed of landmine detection, speeding up the daily square meter coverage and clearance, and allowing people to get back on their land as quickly as possible.

APOPO Angola is deeply grateful for the support and generous contributions of its partners and donors.