TACOMA, Wash. — Three African giant pouched rats skilled in landmine detection are now living at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, making the Tacoma zoo the first in the country to permanently house the special rats.
For 20 years "HeroRATs" have been saving lives across the world with their keen sense of smell and special training. The rats have an amazing ability to sniff out landmines and detect tuberculosis.
The rats come from a nonprofit organization called "Apopo" that trains the rats to save lives with their skills. More than 60 countries are contaminated with hidden landmines, according to Apopo.
"They teach them to sniff out TNT that is found in the landmine," said Jessica Sutherland, a zoologist with the Point Defiance Zoo. "Versus a person checking over the area with a metal detector, the rats can sniff out and be very very fast in comparison."
The rats are also doing special work in detecting tuberculosis.
They "sniff out samples that have already been checked by a lab and catch ones that the medical equipment and missed," Sutherland said. "So they are helping save peoples lives by getting those people treatment that wouldn't otherwise be getting treatment."
The three HeroRATs now at the Point Defiance Zoo did not pass landmine training, which is why they are now able to be ambassadors here in America.
People interested in seeing them demonstrate their skills can see them on July 27 and 28 starting at 2 p.m.