If you’re trapped in rubble after surviving an earthquake, all you want is help. In fact, you probably won’t care what that help looks like.
Enter the most unlikely of heroes, a rat decked out in a tiny backpack who’s here to save the day! These animals have been meticulously trained through the Hero Rats project to seek out trapped victims and send signals letting rescuers know where to find them. Soon, they’ll even be able to speak to victims through a little microphone in the rat’s pack!
Tomorrow, our very own, Dr. Donna Kean’s poster on training our rats for search and rescue will be presented at the #SQAB2022Boston conference 💪— APOPO Science (@ApopoScience) May 25, 2022
Find an interview with Donna on the project here: https://t.co/ipbB0zmKod#animalbehaviour #animalbehavior #zoology #HeroRATs pic.twitter.com/m9JwYYbYrd
A Scottish research scientist, Dr. Donna Kean, is heading up the project which is funded by the nonprofit organization APOPO in Tanzania, East Africa. Dr. Kean hopes to train these animals to find trapped humans, detect wildlife smuggling, clean up the environment, and even detect diseases. So far, the initial trials are overwhelmingly positive.
In other words, Hero Rats actually work.
Dr. Kean and her team have trained seven rats so far. These animals are incredibly smart, nimble, and contrary to popular belief, very clean. The scientists have found the rats to be “sociable,” and they have high hopes for deploying hundreds of trained rats into disaster and war zones to save human lives.
“Rats would be able to get into small spaces to get to victims buried in rubble,” said Dr. Kean. “We have not been in a real situation yet, we have got a mock debris site. When we get the new backpacks we will be able to hear from where we are based and where the rat is, inside the debris. We have the potential to speak to victims through the rat.”
**Please retweet** Do you want to help train these heroes🐭 to find trapped humans, fight wildlife smuggling, detect disease & clean up the environment? If you have a PhD & experience with animals apply now #weirdjobs #jobsearch #job #research #sciencehttps://t.co/tVj9XgSTYV pic.twitter.com/QLxzO0TEc3— Dr Donna Kean (@donnaeilidhkean) May 30, 2022
At first, one of Dr. Kean’s team members was using her sewing skills to create tiny backpacks for these tiny heroes, but now that early experiments and tests indicate success, they’ll be replacing the homemade gear with something more professional.
About 170 more rats are now being trained to detect landmines. Because they’re so small and light on their feet, a rat has never once detonated a landmine. Plus, thanks to their keen sense of smell, rats can also sniff out tuberculosis and Brucellosis, an infectious disease in livestock!
Other scientists are currently training dogs to perform these duties as well, but Dr. Kean is convinced that Hero Rats can do the job better, cheaper, and more efficiently.
“They are so agile, they are so good at moving through all kinds of different environments,” she explained. “They are perfect for search and rescue-type work. They can live off anything. They are very good at surviving in different environments which just shows how suitable they are for search and rescue work.”
It only took about two weeks to train the first batch of Hero Rats. The next step is to bring them into a real-life disaster situation to see how they do. The original seven rats will travel to Turkey to work with a search and rescue team in the coming weeks.
“We hope it will save lives, the results are really promising,” said Dr. Kean.
APOPO’s Innovation Team are developing new avenues for our HeroRATs to save lives & our environment with their nose, including detecting illegally trafficked wildlife and trapped victims for Search & Rescue. 😃— APOPO Science (@ApopoScience) May 19, 2022
Follow us for updates and developments! #zoology #animalscience pic.twitter.com/lDRmjQ434Z
Who would have ever thought that rats could potentially save human lives? Kudos to Dr. Kean and her team for thinking outside the box to help others.
Watch the video below to see the Hero Rats in action, and be sure to share with a friend.
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