Giant rats used as land-mine detectors. Sounds crazy however; Cambodia has begun employing African Giant Rats to sniff out unexploded land mines.
These giant rats have an incredible sense of smell and can detect TNT in amounts as low as 1 ounce, which is just as well as their eyesight is terrible.
The rats are trained to sniff out only TNT and will stick their nose in the air and scratch the ground when they’ve found a mine. After every successful detection, the rats are rewarded with a banana. The trainers are very thorough and often try to trick the rats using various odors however; the rats learn quickly that “No TNT = No banana”.
The rats are easy to train, easy to transport and relatively economical at $6,500 per rat.
The 2 ft. long rats can clear a 200-square-meter area in 30-35 minutes versus 2 – 3 days for a metal-detecting machine. Mine-detecting dogs bond with specific handlers and will not work if that person is not there and they can accidently set off a mine with their weight. However, rats will work with anyone and are light enough to avoid blowing themselves up. The rats work for 6-8 years and live in individual cages in an air-conditioned room. Not a bad gig for a rat!
The rats have plenty of job security in this part of the world with Cambodia estimating 4 – 6 million unexploded land mines and other bombs left over from various conflicts. These remnants of war have caused dozens of deaths and serious injuries every year.