miércoles, 27 de mayo de 2015

Rats in Africa are saving tons of lives in the most badass way possible (10 Photos)

Everyone’s least favorite rodent has been tasked with cleaning up the lethal leftovers of war. Land mines kill thousands every year, but these rats have been trained to save lives by sniffing out the scent of explosives. The group responsible for training the rodents is APOPO – which stands for Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling in Dutch, or Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development in English.

Using positive reinforcement that is respectful to the animals, these African pouched rats are taught to identify explosives and then alert their handler.

They’re perfect for the job – they’re highly intelligent and have a keen sense of smell. They are small enough not to trigger mines, yet large enough to be easily identifiable in the field. No rat has been killed in a minefield.

They can clear two hundred square meters in just 20 minutes. It would take humans with metal detectors five days to cover the same area.

Since 2000, they have found over 9,000 buried land mines and bombs all across Tanzania and Mozambique. They’ve also found thousands of small arms and ammunitions stashed in the ground.


The rats normally live for up to eight years, but are retired when they turn six. They live out the rest of their days as hero’s, munching on avocados, apples and bananas, and being loved on by their handlers. 

1. Socialization. Once the rats open their eyes at the age of four weeks, they are socialized to interact with people and get used to the various stimuli of our world.
2-3 Click training and scent conditioning. The click sound is established as a conditioned reinforcer associated with a food reward. Once the rat learns that click means food, it will now have to search for the target scent, TNT, to earn this reward.
4. TNT scent discrimination. The rat is offered a choice between various scents placed beneath 3 sniffer holes. Only when it pauzes above the target scent, the click and food treat will teach the rat this was the correct response.
5. Soil floor search - The rat will continue its search for the target scent, but now it is hidden in a sandbox. The rat learns to walk in lanes and return to its trainer for some banana after each correct indication.
6. Field training. For the first time, the rats enter a real field with deactivated landmines. They will first detect surface laid mines on a small surface to, and move gradually to deeper mines in larger areas.
7. Blind test and accreditation - In this final test the rats will have to earn their ticket to the countries of operation.  They are rigorously tested with higher requirements compared to the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS).


May 25, 2015

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