APOPO's mission is to develop detection rats technology to provide solutions for global problems and inspire positive social change. APOPO's vision is to solve pressing humanitarian challenges with detection rats technology. Our core values are: Quality - Demonstrating and promoting high standards in research, design, training and implementation of detection rats technology. Social Transformation - Developing skills, creating jobs, improving socio-economic and environmental conditions, releasing land for development, and combating public health issues. Innovation - Pioneering creative research and innovative solutions within a participatory learning culture. Diversity - Embracing diversity...
Jun 5, 2013

Hamisi the HeroRat has started training!

Hamisi learning to detect TB
Hamisi learning to detect TB

Dear Supporters, 

Thank you for your life-saving support to APOPO.  Due to your generosity, we have started training Hamisi, the HeroRat, to detect Tuberculosis (TB).  Here is what the journey of Hamisi will entail over his nine month training process.  This process forms the foundation for a successful 6-7 year lifespan of the TB detection rat to significantly impact the spread of tuberculosis.

3-4 weeks of age 

At 3-4 weeks old the baby rats can open their eyes and at this time they still live with their mothers, but minimal socialization by one of our caretakers can begin.

5-6 weeks of age

The rats are weaned from their mother, and they begin a period of socialization.  During this period, the caretaker and trainers expose the rats to different smells, sounds and textures, for example hearing music or a motorcycle engine, smelling flowers or coffee, exploring different surfaces like grass, concrete and soil, and going for a ride in the HeroRAT truck. This is an essential part of the training process: the rats need to feel comfortable and relaxed in the human environment they will be working in, to ensure they are not afraid.

Click training

After two weeks of nursing, the rats begin click training twice a day, in approximately 5 minute sessions. Here they learn to associate the “click” sound with a food reward. This takes place in a square glass-walled cage, with a small food hole in one wall. Immediately after the rat hears the “click”, the trainer gives them a mouthful of mushed banana and crushed pellets. Click training takes one-two weeks.

One hole and Three hole

Once the rats learn that “click” means food, trainers can begin to teach the rats that they must now find something in order for the “click” and subsequent food reward. They start with one hole in a three-hole cage. When the rat goes to the hole, they hear a “click” and must learn to return to the food hole to receive their reward. They do this twice a day for one week, for 5-10 minute sessions. Once the rat has learned to go to one hole and then respond correctly to the clicker, trainers begin to introduce more holes (3), with one positive and two neutral samples for a few weeks.

Multiple Sample Evaluation

The rat will move to a larger cage, which holds sample bars with each 10 samples under sniffing holes in a long stainless steel plate. In this training stage, the rat learns to evaluate large numbers of samples.  The rat is then trained in this setup for several months until the accuracy rate is at an acceptable level.  

TB Rat accreditation

APOPO's TB rats must pass an internal accreditation process before working under operational conditions. The test is conducted under blind conditions and to pass the rat must find every positive patient. 

Once Hamisi is accredited, Hamisi will then work for the next 5-6 years detecting thousands of sputum samples and detecting hundreds of TB patients originally missed by hospitals.

From APOPO and the future beneficiaries that Hamisi will help, a huge HeroRAT thank you!!


Hamisi with proud trainer Pius Wilbard
Hamisi with proud trainer Pius Wilbard
May 20, 2013

Surviving the landmines: APOPO's work in Thailand


Thailand offers its hospitality to millions of tourists every year and has become one of the biggest and most attractive tourist destinations in the world, charming its visitors with a rich array of history, culture, architecture and food. Yet few are aware of a considerable mine problem along the borders, especially with Cambodia, and that people living in these areas suffer from landmine accidents, fear of accidents and limited access to arable land.

What is it like to survive dangerous landmines? Watch this video, which features interviews with survivers, on APOPO's work in Thailand: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yApYLbESJl0

APOPO has built upon the excellent start in Thailand in 2011 where it implemented a Non-Technical Survey (NTS) program along the Thailand-Cambodia border. APOPO has partnered with a local Thai NGO, Peace Roads Organisation (PRO) and has been working closely with the Thailand Mine Action Centre (TMAC) to systematically survey all minefields along the border in Trat & Buriram Provinces.

NTS gathers detailed information about mined areas including the number of mines, location and size. The consequence of this NTS process is that considerable time, effort and money will now not be wasted clearing land unnecessarily. This then increases the efficiency and effectiveness for the mine action programs and will assist Thailand meet its mine ban treaty obligations.


Apr 4, 2013

International Mine Awareness Day: Zero New Landmine Victims

I once met a four-year-old boy while visiting a physical rehabilitation centre in Colombia. He sat on a small chair in front of a small table. A woman, probably his mother, accompanied him. A physiotherapist sat on the other side of the table. She was holding some cards in front of him, and it looked like they were playing a game. I could not be further off. The boy tried to manoeuvre his hand to grip the cards, but his hand had been replaced with a prosthesis.

He seemed so small and earnest in his struggles and I could not help but cursing whatever had caused the loss of this boy’s hand. There was a conflict, but that little boy should never have been the target. The landmine that “took” him could not discriminate between soldiers and children and would strike anyone who would come across it. Just like a soldier that never sleeps and keeps on fighting til the bitter end, decades after the real war has ended. The silent soldier kills, maims and injures its targets indiscriminately – 70 to 85% of landmine casualties are civilians.

Most countries that suffer from mines are war torn, with poor or non-existing health care services. Many landmine victims will never receive the care and treatment that they need and should receive. The four-year-old boy has only begun his lifelong struggle. He is one of several hundreds of children and adults that fall victims of landmines each year. As the boy grows, he will require a new prosthesis every six months. He is probably luckier than most other mine victims, but this is poor consolation. For his and other victims’ sake, we cannot afford to slow down our efforts to rid the world of mines.

Finding and clearing mines is time-consuming, slow and dangerous. The problem is too big and has taken too long to get rid of, meaning that funds are drying out due to donor fatigue. For people who live among landmines, life will only be truly good when the last landmine has left the ground. Creating cost-effective, high-impact mine removal programs is therefore necessary to eliminate the mines left in former and active conflict regions around the world, such as Mozambique, Cambodia and Angola.

Clearance operations, however, are known to be slow and costly. In the past, it was found that clearance had been conducted in areas that contained no mines, because they can be hard to locate. In order to clear mines from the right areas, systematic collection of information prior to clearance is essential. This process is now often referred to as non-technical survey, which combines a desk assessment with field observations and informant interviews. The survey gathers and analyses past records, land use and visible signs of mines. The aim is to use survey tools, both non-technical and technical assets, such as manual deminers or mine detections rats (MDRs), to reduce the need for full clearance, which is more expensive and time consuming.

Low-cost mine identification and removal tools are also needed to maximize available resources. APOPO, for example, works with rats to aid this process.  Rats are a very efficient tool for releasing large mine suspected areas and can help free areas from the threat of landmines efficiently and at very low costs. Our ultimate goal is to reach the zero new landmine victims goal in the countries where we work. It’s a hairy goal but we cannot aim for any less.

Read the original article on The Humanitas Global Development Blog.

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