The magical “agent mouse”: Dare to go to the battlefield to clear mines and see a doctor

  When it comes to mice, many people are displeased.
  This kind of small animal is often disgusted by people because of stealing and gnawing things, and even got the infamy of “rat crossing the street, everyone screams and beats”. But in the East African country of Tanzania, a kind of rat is regarded as a “hero” by the locals. This kind of giant cheek pouch mouse unique to Africa has an average length of 25 cm and a weight of about 1 kg. After special training, this kind of mouse can become a “mine-sweeping agent” to assist humans in checking for landmines. At first glance, training live animals as mine-clearing tools is extremely cruel. However, Abobo, a Belgian non-profit organization that trains these giant rats, said that because the mine-sweeping rats are not heavy, the number of cases of death caused by stepping on explosives during the mission is “0”.
  On the training ground, a piece of grass was divided into dozens of simulated minefields with an area of ​​about 200 square meters, scattered with defused mines. The mice put on the leash and began to shuttle back and forth in the field, and frequently slowed down in some places. When they scratch the ground, the TNT-filled mines have been found! According to statistics, these guys with a keen sense of smell can search an area the size of a tennis court in half an hour, while a human deminer armed with a metal detector may take up to four days. Since a metal detector may sound an alarm if it sweeps over any metal, it may take a human deminer a long time to realize that all that was dug up was a soda can.
  When the mice were pups, they began training with a “click reward” that conditioned the “click” sound of a hand-held mechanical device to their favorite treats of crushed bananas and pellets . Once the giant rats understood that the click meant food, the trainers further taught them to associate this reward with the smell of the TNT explosives often contained in the mines.
  Tanzania is a relatively stable coastal country in East Africa. It is far away from the smoke of gunpowder, and the minesweeper itself does not have much use. But to the south of the country, Mozambique is one of the most heavily mined countries on the continent. Mozambique’s war of independence from 1964 to 1975, followed by nearly two decades of civil war, left the country with tens of thousands of landmines buried underground.
  ”They performed so well,” Alberto Augusto, director of Mozambique’s National Demining Organization, told the media at a viewing event. He believes that with the help of these mine-sweeping rats, Mozambique can completely eliminate landmines within 20 years.
  Not only that, the minesweepers also found a new “job” in Tanzania: using their strong sense of smell to detect tuberculosis bacteria in human saliva samples. Like Minesweeper, Giant Rat can detect hundreds of cases a day much faster than existing machines. Tanzania is one of the countries with a high incidence of tuberculosis in the world. Clinics in this not-so-rich country used to rely mainly on smear microscopy, but the sensitivity of the aging equipment has not been high, so many people were missed. When the researchers tried to introduce giant rats into the testing center, the detection rate increased significantly.
  This phenomenon has been confirmed by several research papers. Currently, nearly 60 clinics across Tanzania employ these rats for “consultation”. The giant rat, which once annoyed the locals, has made great military exploits and has become the object of praise from many Tanzanians.

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