Magawa the rat dies after lifetime mission searching for landmines in Cambodia

Magawa wearing his PDSA Gold Medal.

Magawa, the landmine detection rat who was awarded a gold medal for his bravery, has died aged eight.

The African giant pouched rat was trained to sniff out chemical compounds in explosives across Cambodia and went on to have an illustrious five-year career which saw him uncover more than 100 of the devices.

APOPO, a Belgium-registered charity based in Tanzania that trained the 1.2kg rodent, confirmed on Tuesday that Magawa had passed away "peacefully" at the weekend of natural causes.

"Magawa was in good health and spent most of last week playing with his usual enthusiasm, but towards the weekend he started to slow down, napping more and showing less interest in food in his last days," the charity said in a statement.

"Magawa had recently celebrated his birthday in November, reaching the grand old age of 8."

Bred in Tanzania in 2013, the giant pouched rodent became the charity’s most successful hero rat, having cleared more than 141,000 square metres of land – the equivalent of 20 football pitches.

In September 2020, ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie reported on the incredible work of the landmine-sniffing hero rat

He was able to alert human handlers about the mines so they could be safely removed in Cambodia, where there is believed to be up to six million landmines.

"Every discovery he made reduced the risk of injury or death for the people of Cambodia," said APOPO, which has been raising animals to detect landmines and tuberculosis since the 1990s.

In 2020, Magawa was formally recognised for his "life-saving devotion to duty" as he was presented with a miniature PDSA Gold Medal, the animal equivalent of the George Cross.

Magawa receiving a banana as reward for finding a mine Credit: PDSA/APOPO

It was the first rat in the charity’s 77-year history to receive such an award.

Magawa was able to search the area of a tennis court in 30 minutes, something that would take a human with a metal detector up to four days.

The rats - which had to undertake a years worth of training before being certified - work for around half an hour a day, in the early morning. Once they detect a landmine, they scratch the top, which alerts their human handlers.

Following years of valiant service, Magawa retired last June, after "slowing down" as he approached old age.