Our History

The story of APOPO began when Bart Weetjens, founder of the organization wondered if the rodents he used to keep as pets could be taught to find landmines and other explosives.


APOPO rebranding

Over the last two decades APOPO has developed quite a lot: we expanded into several new countries and grew our Training and R&D into a department in its own right. To celebrate this APOPO began rebranding beginning with a redesigned set of logos that concisely convey everything that our organization stands for whilst being able to work in different contexts and still reflect the APOPO spirit and family.

Over 250,000 patients tested

APOPO reaches the milestone of having re-tested over quarter a million patients with signs and symptoms of tuberculosis (TB), across sites, since the APOPO TB-detection research program began in 2007. APOPO’s programs work within government health systems to support over 100 partner clinics in Tanzania, Mozambique and Ethiopia in their fight against TB. According to estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO), about half of the TB patients in these countries are ‘missed’.


APOPO begins clearing landmines around UNESCO world heritage site

APOPO announces expansion of the Cambodia landmine clearance program into the province of Preah Vihear. These operations are freeing up land for agriculture as well as removing the minefields around the famous Preah Vihear Temple, in Choam Khsant district. The temple area has a long history of minefields around it as it was the middle of a border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand. Choam Khsant is one of the most vulnerable places in Cambodia and was ranked as the most mine affected district in 2017.

Opening of APOPO-AHRI TB project Ethiopia

APOPO opens a TB detection rat facility in Addis Ababa in partnership with the Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI), a federal government institute that is both main partner and host of the project. The project is contributing towards the national TB control effort from two different angles: finding the missed cases among symptomatic patients and finding TB among non-symptomatic but high-risk population (prison inmates) across the country.

APOPO registered in Angola

APOPO received its registration from Angola’s Ministry of Justice which permits APOPO to conduct its humanitarian demining activities independently in Angola. This credential is the first step toward independent registration and licensing with all relevant authorities in Angola which will make way for APOPO’s access to new funding streams and a range of potential partnerships. Most importantly, this new standing will help APOPO accelerate landmine clearance in Angola in accordance with Angola’s 2025 deadline for compliance with Article 5 of the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC).

GeneXpert Expansion for APOPO TB Mozambique

APOPO TB Mozambique responds to the national rollout of GeneXpert technology. In 2017 Mozambican health authorities started a roll out of the GeneXpert technology with the TB test Xpert MTB/RIF which is far more accurate than standard microscopy and catches many more TB-positive patients at clinic. This substitution of microscopy by Xpert resulted in a lower number of samples received by APOPO allowing APOPO to adjust its strategy to increase Xpert testing at its TB facility in Maputo in partnership with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) who operate in Maputo under the directorate of MSF Switzerland.

Cambodia Visitor Center Opens

APOPO held the official opening event for its new visitor center in Siem Reap, Cambodia on January 26th. The visitor center next to the APOPO office in Siem Reap, was designed to give our visitors a better understanding of mine action, the problem of landmines and other explosive remnants of war as well as demo the mine detection rats - the unique solution APOPO provides to speed up demining efforts in the country. HeroRAT fans visiting Cambodia can now see demonstrations of HeroRATs at work without the dangers of a real minefield.


APOPO ramps up its TB-detection research in Tanzania

APOPO announces its Tuberculosis detection rat research program is expanding from 29 partner clinics in Tanzania to a total of 57. The expansion exhibits confidence in the program by Tanzanian health officials. The new clinics are located in Dar es Salaam (17), Dodoma (8) and Morogoro region (4). With these new additions, APOPO now covers up to 85% of presenting TB patients in Dar es Salaam with aims to achieve 100% coverage.

APOPO celebrates its 20th Birthday

From APOPO’s humble beginnings to our present day status as a global organization, APOPO is proud to celebrate 20 years of detecting two of the deadliest threats on the planet: landmines and tuberculosis. So far, the HeroRATs have helped clear over 106,000 landmines, identified over 12,000 TB-Positive patients who were missed by their clinics, and prevented almost 90,000 potential infections of tuberculosis – the world’s biggest infectious disease killer.

Launch of the Africa centers of excellence

SUA Pest Management Centre together with APOPO, are chosen as one of the Africa Centers of Excellence for Innovative Rodent Pest Management and Biosensor Technology Development. The center is based at the site of APOPO's most supportive partner the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania, in which APOPO's operational HQ also resides.

New community TB Partner in Mozambique

APOPO TB Mozambique partners with Associação Kenguelekezé to increase TB-patient tracking in Maputo. Partner clinics in Maputo give them information on additional TB-patients found by APOPO so they can actively find them to verify they are on treatment and if found not to be - to get them to the clinics as fast as possible. Kenguelekezé also carries out discussion sessions in communities to raise awareness about tuberculosis and attempt to break the stigma, as well as teach people the importance of following through on treatment. As a result of this new partnership Maputo patient recovery rates are increasing.

APOPO investigating applications for anti-trafficking of threatened wildlife

APOPO established a partnership with The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) of South Africa in 2016 to collaborate on proof-of- principle research to examine the abilities of its African giant pouched rats to detect the world’s most widely trafficked mammal, pangolin, as well as African blackwood, an illegally logged and trafficked timber. Eleven young rats were selected and began training to indicate the presence of pangolin derivatives or endangered timber, but not common masking materials found in shipping containers, such as beans. If successful, later stages of the experiment will explore possible methods for the rats to assess the contents of shipping containers.

APOPO Mine Action opens in Colombia

APOPO opens a mine action offcie in Colombia and lobbies the Colombian government to consider the use of APOPO's innovative landmine detection rats as effective detectors of minimal-metal landmines. The APOPO MA team begins by providing capacity building and technical assistance to Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas (CCCM) – the Colombian campaign to ban landmines.

Opening of Dog Training Center in Cambodia

APOPO is uniquely positioned to train scent detection animals following 20 years of experience in research, training and operational use of mine detection rats for mine clearance. APOPO has thus established a mine detection dog (MDD) training centre in Kampong Scnang in Cambodia where dogs are being trained for global deployment to mine affected countries.


APOPO TB facility opens in Dar es Salaam

APOPO celebrated the opening of its new HeroRAT TB Detection Facility in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The new facility will now deliver APOPO results within 24 hours so patients get them when they return to clinic for their standard results, vastly increasing the number of people getting on treatment.

APOPO to clear landmines in Zimbabwe

APOPO and the Ministry of Defence of the Government of Zimbabwe officially sign an agreement to allow APOPO to begin clearing landmines in the country.

GICHD endorses the MDR

The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), a respected mine action authority, conducted a study of APOPO's Mine Detection Rat (MDR) programs in Angola, Mozambique and Cambodia. September saw the publishing of this report, which concluded that the HeroRATs are indeed effective at detecting landmines and other explosives, and can significantly speed up conventional landmine clearance.

10,000 patients found

APOPO reaches a landmark of identifying 10,000 TB-positive patients who were missed by their local clinics and sent home. In Sub-Saharan Africa, public clinics send home about 50% of all TB-positive patients with a wrong diagnosis. Not only will this eventually prove fatal to the patient, but without treatment they can infect up to 15 other people within a year. That means that APOPO potentially halted 150,000 further infections!

MDR deployed on Cambodian minefields

After a period of acclimatization and 3 months of intensive testing by our partner CMAC to IMAS standards, the HeroRAT teams in Cambodia were deployed onto real minefields. CMAC is very pleased with how significantly the HeroRATs speed up landmine clearance efforts.


APOPO opens U.S. Office

APOPO officially announced the opening of APOPO U.S., an independent 501(c)(3) affiliate organization based in Washington DC with Charlie Richter as Director.APOPO US aims to support the organization's overall global activities by strengthening collaboration with US donors and operational partners. Direct tax deductible donations to support APOPO and the HeroRAT's are now possible for the U.S. public, which makes up over half of the organization's global public supporters.

APOPO asked to remain in Mozambique

Following the Mozambique ‘Mine-Free’ announcement, APOPO remains in Mozambique at the official request of the National Institute of Demining (IND), to continue providing technical expertise and support capacity for residual or remaining clearance work.

Mozambique declared free of all known landmines

On the 17th of September 2015, at a ceremony in Maputo, His Excellency Minister Oldemiro Júlio Margues Baloi Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared the country ‘Free of all known landmines’.

HeroRATs in Cambodia

A group of HeroRATS made it safely to Cambodia where they started in country training in preparation of their external accreditation test. When they pass this test the HeroRATs and their trainers are officially licensed for operational work in the minefields and can start helping people back on their land.


APOPO launches its US office and is working towards registering APOPO as a 501(c)3 organization. The US office goals are increasing public support, driving funding partnerships for the various programs, executing APOPO’s marketing strategy, increasing media attention and continuing to expand the APOPO HeroRATs brand.

APOPO #22 in Top 500 NGOs rankings

APOPO is ranked #22 in the Global Geneva Top 500 NGOs rankings. Over 2000 organizations were evaluated using criteria based on innovation, impact and sustainability.


Tete Province mine-free

APOPO helped clear Tete Province of all known landmines, allowing more than 400,000 people to get back to using their land and carry on their lives without fear. Tete used to be one of the most heavily mined provinces of Mozambique.

More partner hospitals in Maputo

Five additional health centers are partnering with our TB center in Maputo, sending sputum samples to APOPO to be evaluated by the TB detection rats. APOPO is covering almost 100% of all the suspect TB patients who go to clinics in the city.

Establishment APOPO Foundation Switzerland

The APOPO foundation, based in Switzerland will support APOPO’s activities by raising funds, raising awareness about our activities and identifying new partnership opportunities.

Humanitarian UXO clearance projects in Vietnam and Lao PDR closing down

APOPO has been managing humanitarian UXO-clearance and capacity development projects in Vietnam and Lao PDR during a few months. Thereby, the teams cleared over 5000 Unexploded Ordnances and released over 23.8 million square meters of land.

APOPO installs Scientific TB Advisory Committee

APOPO installs a TB Scientific Advisory Committee consisting of a multidisciplinary team of international TB experts. The committee provides scientific and medical credibility to the program and research output, advises on long term strategic research planning, and identifies new opportunities for research, funding, and partnerships.

TB accuracy study

In partnership with the Central Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory, the National Institute of Medical Research and the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, APOPO initiates a study to determine the accuracy of detection rats in a population of presumptive TB patients when compared with liquid and solid culture as the reference standard.

APOPO helps Maputo province declare free of all known landmines

In the run up to the anti-personnel mine ban treaty deadline for Mozambique, a handover ceremony is held near APOPO’s operations along the Maputo Powerline in the districts of Boane and Moamba on 21 March 2014.

APOPO gets permits to start working in Laos and Vietnam

APOPO receives Operators Permits to conduct unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance in Lao PDR and Vietnam. With support of the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO) APOPO aims to build capacity in both countries for UXO clearance projects. APOPO assists National and provincial partners to coordinate and monitor mine action activities which will increase the efficiency of land release in the South East Asia region and save many innocent lives.

Start up of Humanitarian demining activities in Cambodia

With support of the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO) and in partnership with The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), APOPO takes over management of Demining Unit 6 in order to fundamentally improve security in mine affected communities in Cambodia.


Myapopo.org goes online

Myapopo is our new personalized adoption system. Adopters receive an ‘avatar’ rat that represents our best and hardest working HeroRATs. On Myapopo they can name and change the look of the avatar, share news on Facebook and twitter, and receive regular updates based on the training and work that our real rats get up to.

First ever accreditation for mine detection rats in Angola

The external accreditation tests were administered by the Angolan National Mine Action Authority; Comissão Nacional Intersectorial de Desminagem e Assistência Humanitária (CNIDAH), under high standards. This accomplishment is the first step towards deploying the rats in the minefields.

Opening of the APOPO TB lab in Maputo

APOPO opens a TB detection clinic at the Vet School of the Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo to help identify the maximum number of TB patients in the shortest possible time and to support the Mozambican National TB Control Program which identifies as priorities the improvement of diagnosis and treatment success rates

APOPO-PRO survey in Thailand

APOPO solidifies its collaboration with Peace Road Organization (PRO), the Thai Mine Action Centre (TMAC) and the Humanitarian Mine Action Units (HMAU's), in order to map all known minefields in Thailand and support the country to reach its Mine Ban treaty obligations.

EFQM certification

After an intensive organizational improvement track of 9 months, APOPO receives the first level of accreditation C2E or committed to excellence from the European Foundation for Quality Management, a quality label preferred by the Belgian NGO sector.

High ranking for APOPO

APOPO is ranked #11 overall on the Global Journal's list of the 'Top 100 NGO's' of 2013. The organization is also featured in the top three lists for the best NGOs in terms of innovation and in the peace-building sector.


The last explosion in Gaza

More than a year before the deadline of March 2014, APOPO explodes the last three landmines in the Gaza Province of Mozambique, after clearing more than 6 million square meters and uncovering 2,406 landmines, 13,025 small arms and ammunition and 922 UXO. APOPO's work is highly recommended by Alberto Augusto, Director of IND.

Mine Detection Rats to Angola

In support of the operations of Norwegian Peoples Aid, APOPO sends its first 16 Mine Detection Rats to Angola towards the end of the year, and trains a team of Angolan rat handlers.

APOPO sets up TB program in Maputo

The success of the TB detection program in Tanzania has convinced the Flemish International Cooperation Agency to invest in the replication of an operational TB detection program in Maputo, Mozambique hosted by Eduardo Mondlane University and in collaboration with the Municipal and National Medical authorities. The Mozambican TB rat pioneers are trained in Tanzania.

Cambodia Mine Action

APOPO partners with the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) with the deployment of 2 Survey Teams within the framework of the National Base Line Survey. This short but effective intervention opens up doors for further collaboration.


Mozambique Mine Action raises the bar

APOPO's returns over 2.5 million square meters of suspected minefields in Mozambique through an effective land release approach. APOPO rethinks its operational approach and strengthens the role of rats in technical survey. The size of the operation has almost tripled during the year.

Royal support!

Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium, APOPO's Honorary President of the Board, visits APOPO's headquarters in Tanzania and Mine Action operations in Mozambique.

APOPO-PRO teams advance land release standards

APOPO has made a substantial contribution, and has become one of the most important partners of TMAC in developing Thailand's National Mine Action Standards on Land Release Methodology. We believe that APOPO’s efforts can contribute to a much more efficient survey to facilitate the land release process, which will bring Thailand, as well as other countries in this region, many steps closer to full compliance with the Anti-Personnel Mines Ban Convention Lieutenant GeneraI Chatree Changrian, Director General Thailand Mine Action Center (TMAC).


Automation of rat training

APOPO made technological advancements and developed an automated training cage for sample evaluation. The rat's response is measured by optical sensors and the cage produces an automated click sound with food delivery. This new system has the potential to remove any human bias, but will still have to be measured against the performance of the much simpler and low tech manual cage.

APOPO's first steps in South East Asia

In 2010, the Thailand Government's Mine Action Center (TMAC) requested APOPO to conduct a combined non-technical and Technical Survey of all mine suspected areas in the provinces of Trat and Chantaburi along the Thai-Cambodian border. Preparations of the project started in October 2010.


Impact of TB detection rats

Halfway through 2009, the TB detection rats evaluated already more than 50,000 sputum samples since they started in 2007, and identified over 1,000 TB patients that were missed by conventional microscopy.

Skoll Award

APOPO is honored to receive the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford. This award is not only a significant financial contribution to improve APOPO, but the Skoll diligence process is an important reference for many foundations worldwide.


Rats prove they can detect tuberculosis!

APOPO provides proof of principle to utilize trained rats for the detection of pulmonary TB in human sputum. APOPO presents its findings at the IUATLD conference in Paris, and the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease accepts APOPO's manuscript for publication.

APOPO is tasked as the sole operator to clear Gaza Province, Mozambique

The IND gives APOPO the full responsibility to clear all known minefields in Gaza Province before the deadline of March 2014. APOPO meanwhile has a fully integrated capacity using rats, manual deminers, ground preparation vehicles and survey teams. The task also includes the Mine Free District Evaluation, meaning that APOPO teams will visit each and every village in the province to verify any residual risks.


International recognitions for social entrepreneurship

APOPO is endorsed by ASHOKA, innovators for the Public and a worldwide network of social innovators. The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship recognizes APOPO as an outstanding social enterprise, which provides access to the networks of the World Economic Forum.


APOPO takes on Mine Clearance operations in Mozambique

APOPO becomes an independent mine action operator and starts its fully integrated mine-clearance operation in Mozambique, accredited by the IND. This includes manual deminers, Mine Detection Rats, and a mechanical capacity for ground preparation.

Research and Development

APOPO has become a main contributor to the R&D efforts to improve animal detectors. In close collaboration with the GICHD, APOPO developed several sample evaluation setups, developed soil sampling systems and had a fully equipped analytical chemistry lab to study the dynamics of explosion migration in soil.


HeroRATs go public

APOPO starts the HeroRAT campaign and begins building a citizen-based support network through the HeroRAT adoption program. This will be the start of a long campaign, giving the rat a voice to update the public about its heroic activities.


Poppies for Peace

Ceramic artist, Anita Huybens, creates 1,000 ceramic poppies for display at a historical site in Belgium. This 'Poppies for Peace' project is the start of a very inspiring and successful fundraising campaign for APOPO.

Rats pass IMAS accreditation

The first group of 11 Mine Detection Rats passes official licensing tests according to the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS), under supervision of GICHD and the National Institute for Demining in Mozambique (IND). IND grants APOPO's Mine Detection Rats operational accreditation.


APOPO wins the World Bank Development Marketplace

From over 2,000 innovative development ideas, APOPO tuberculosis detection project was selected as the leading idea, and was awarded a grant which was used to establish its TB training and research facility at Sokoine University.

First Trials on Mozambique Minefield

Vehicles packed with the first group of rats departed for a journey to Mozambique. In collaboration with MgM, APOPO tested rats on a dense minefield, afterwards completely verified with detectors. The rats indicated all 20 landmines subsequently found by the manual deminers, the results which were published in the Journal for Mine Action, Issue 9.2, February 2006.


First trials on Tuberculosis detection

As a spin off from the REST application, APOPO realized the rats could be useful in addressing other humanitarian challenges in Africa. The devastating surge of TB and the lack of an appropriate diagnostic tool inspired APOPO to test the rats on their ability to sniff out positive TB sputum samples. They were collected from the hospitals in Morogoro, and soon the rats proved they could also do this job.


GICHD evaluation

The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) performs the external evaluation of APOPO and its rats at the test and training fields at the Sokoine University of Agriculture. The feedback helps to identify areas of growth, and APOPO systematically improves its detection methodology using rats. As a result of the evaluation and efficacy of the program, GICHD also contracts APOPO to conduct research on Remote Explosive Scent Tracing (REST).


Move to Tanzania

Under a collaboration agreement with the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the Tanzanian People Defence Forces, APOPO establishes office and training facilities, and starts developing what will be the most extensive training Minefield in Africa. The new headquarters of APOPO are based at the SUA campus, on the foot of the beautiful Uluguru Mountains.


The rats can do it!

APOPO developed training methods for detecting buried explosives as well as explosive samples, and gathered enough evidence to take the program to where it was meant to be: Africa!


Onzo is Born!

APOPO breeds its first African Giant Pouched rat in captivity. Onzo is part of a litter of 3 newborn rats, and will now be trained according to the protocol developed using lab rats.

First training results

Biologist Ellen van Krunkelsven joins the team, and training experiments begin. The first African Giant Rats had arrived in Antwerp, but breeding them proved a major challenge. Anticipating the first offspring, APOPO developed its first training methods using Norwegian hooded lab rats. Halfway through the year, this rat demonstrated that it could search for a cannister with TNT and drop it for the visiting program evaluator of the Belgian Development Cooperation.


The Belgian Government provides first grant for feasibility study

The APOPO project is launched on 1st November 1997 by Bart Weetjens and his former schoolmate Christophe Cox. They previously collaborated in a non for profit which was headed by Mic Billet, and started building a Kennel facility for the training and Breeding of African Giant Pouched Rats. They contacted Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania, and placed an order for the import of Giant Rats.

Which rat?

Bart consults Prof. Ron Verhagen, rodent expert at the department of evolutionary biology of the University of Antwerp. He believes in the feasibility of the project and selects the 'Cricetomys Gambianus' or African Giant Pouched rat as the best suited candidate for the mine detection task. Its longevity up to eight years and african origin are the most important factors.


Gathering support and ready to go!

Prof. Mic Billet, the founder of the Institute for Product Development and former lecturer of Bart, fully supports the idea and made his personal resources available for further investigation and promotion of the new initiative.


A new idea is born

Bart Weetjens was exploring solutions for the global landmine problem. As a rat pet owner, he came across a publication using gerbils as scent detectors. Rats, intelligent, cheap and widespread over the world were going to detect landmines, that much was sure.