African pouched rats equipped with backpacks are being trained to locate survivors trapped under debris. Their size, natural curiosity and powerful sense of smell make them well-suited for the job
17 June 2022
Large, fuzzy, backpack-wearing rodents may soon help first responders locate and communicate with survivors trapped in disaster sites.
The rodents are currently being trained to sniff out people trapped under rubble and can now do complex multiroom searches for victims, bringing the “hero rats” a step closer to being deployed at real disaster sites.
Donna Kean is pioneering the search-and-rescue project at APOPO, a Belgian non-profit organisation that trains African pouched rats (Cricetomys ansorgei) for humanitarian purposes. Its hero rats are already sniffing out thousands of landmines in South-East Asia and detecting cases of tuberculosis in Africa.
The rats range …