World Animal Day 2019

Honoring our little heroes!

October 4th is World Animal Day - a day for paying tribute to all animals and the people who love and respect them. When our founder, Bart Weetjens, came up with the idea for APOPO, it was born out of a childhood spent breeding and caring for pet rats, knowing these creatures had an amazing gift: their sense of smell!

All of us here at APOPO especially those that work closely with these gentle giants, remain in awe of their intelligence. We are honored by the huge service they do for all those whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by landmines and tuberculosis.

The first World Animal Day was organized in 1931 by a man named Heinrich Zimmermann, a writer and publisher of Mensch und Hund (Man and Dog) magazine, to promote the protection of all animals, domestic and wild. Zimmermann chose the date of October 4th as it is the day of the Catholic Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and ecology.

Here at APOPO we find it of the utmost importance that the welfare of all of our rats is considered and protected at all times. As part of our strict animal welfare policy we make sure our little heroes always get enough loving care, water, food and exercise. Our staff across the globe treat these amazing animals with kindness and affection because they absolutely deserve it. APOPO’s HeroRATs are trained through a behavior-and-reward system. We believe, and research has shown, that the most effective way to teach an animal a new behavior is with positive reinforcement. 

In honor of world animal day we’d like to share some fun facts you might not know about the HeroRATs:

#1: HeroRATs communicate very loudly in squeaks whereas other rats communicate on an ultrasonic frequency (to avoid detection) and are very quiet to our ears.

#2: HeroRATs have huge pouches in their cheeks (like a hamster) where they can store food. 

#3: HeroRATs are extremely social and affectionate animals.

#4: HeroRATs love being petted and their 'favourite spot' is getting scratched on their hips and lower back. 

#5: HeroRATs laugh when tickled. In fact, tickling has even been shown to make rats feel more optimistic. 

APOPO continues to promote the welfare of our amazing rodents and raise awareness of their exceptional abilities. We hope to change minds and stereotypes and get more people to rethink rats! Wishing you and your animal friends all a wonderful and loving #WorldAnimalDay.

Interested in supporting APOPO and the HeroRATs? Here are 3 fantastic ways to give!