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Belgian NGO trains rats to find people after earthquakes

Belgian non-governmental organization APOPO trains rats to find people under the rubble after the earthquake.

Animals equipped with high-tech backpacks will instantly let you know if they are alive in areas that are difficult to enter. The Belgian organization, which has been training dogs and mice to detect landmines and tuberculosis for about 10 years, has now started working on rats to find victims of earthquakes and similar disasters.

According to the news in the Belgian media, rats will be dressed in a vest equipped with high technology. Animals released under the rubble will turn on the signal activator button on their vests after they find the victim here. Rats that come out later will be rewarded with food.

APOPO collaborated with Eindhoven Technical University in the Netherlands for technological devices that rats will carry. A type of vest was developed by engineer Sander Verdiesen, which includes a video camera, microphone and tracker. The project is led by a team led by Scottish scientist Donna Kean. Kean says the results will be promising, even though he's only just getting started with the training of animals.

Stating that backpacks and training make mice incredibly useful for search and rescue, Kean said, “Rats are naturally curious and adventurous animals. These are the two most important aspects of search and rescue. Also, due to their small size and excellent sense of smell, the animals are well suited for finding humans in small and cramped spaces,” she says.

The Belgian organization has long trained dogs and rodents to detect landmines and tuberculosis in the East African country of Tanzania.

Thanks to the trained animals, more than 6,000 land mines, about 3,000 small arms and ammunition, and up to a thousand bombs were detected in many countries, including Mozambique, Angola, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.

The training of mice used for mine detection takes 9 months. Animals that learn how to interact with humans shortly after birth are then trained to recognize the scent of explosives.

Mines found by rats, which can scan more than 200 square meters in about 1 hour, are cleared by experts.

rat painting in a streetwall
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