Two dozen Heroes to Cambodia

New recruits to boost Cambodian program.

Last week was an exciting week for APOPO’s operational headquarters and Training Center in Tanzania as a group of 24 landmine detection rats boarded their first international flight for Cambodia.

Over the last nine months the training teams in Morogoro, Tanzania have been working hard to equip the rats with the skills they need to become HeroRATs. After passing their final round of testing from mine detection school the rats were carefully prepared for the long journey from Africa to South-East Asia. All necessary paperwork was completed and the HeroRATs made fit to travel.

At APOPO, we take each rat's health very seriously and it is also our responsibility to make sure that they are not carrying any diseases or parasites with them when they are sent out to other countries, so they are vaccinated and checked thoroughly to make sure that they are in excellent health before they get on a plane. There are specific travel requirements for the HeroRATs: they are micro-chipped, and they need to be in good helth and have all their shots as well as have a valid vaccination form and an approved and stamped animal passport from a vet.

APOPO also requires export permits from Tanzania and import permits from the country of destination. Although the effort involved in acquiring the necessary permits to deploy the rats outside of Tanzania is a major undertaking, most of the paperwork is intended to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking and the introduction of invasive species to other countries and APOPO strongly supports this protective procedure.

The rats arrived safely on Wednesday October 23rd, raising the number of rats APOPO has in the Cambodia program to 50. Initially the rats will rest up after the long journey and then slowly begin their acclimatization training with their new Cambodian handlers. They are expected to be accredited and deployed in December. These reinforcements arrive at an opportune time, following the expansion of the APOPO Cambodia landmine clearance program into the province of Preah Vihear last year. They will help boost the daily square meter coverage and clearance, which allows APOPO to help get local communities back on their land as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile back in Tanzania this big achievement was celebrated at the Training Center as never before have we sent such a large number of rats to Cambodia in one go! Always a bittersweet moment.

APOPO Cambodia is grateful for the support and generous contributions of all its partners and donors.