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Mar 25, 2020

9 New Tuberculosis Rats for 2020

Welcome to our first project update of 2020 where we’ll be focussing on our tuberculosis (TB) operations given our latest, exciting news: 9 new TB detection rats are ready for deployment.

The first three months of the year have seen our Training and Innovation team working flat out to get 9 new TB detection rats ready for operations abroad. Thanks to your support we've been able to train these additional HeroRATs to bolster our tuberculosis detection offering, but do you know how it's done?

It takes roughly 9 months to train a HeroRAT in TB detection. When young, our rats are regularly handled and socialised in order to ensure they become at ease in their surroundings and with people. They are regularly handled by trained staff and introduced to everyday sounds and smells.

As training progresses, the rats are trained to associate the sound of a click with a reward; when they near a sputum sample they hear a click and receive some banana - one of their favourite treats! Once able to identify a sputum sample they move on to learn how to distinguish between TB positive and TB negative samples; they will only hear a click and receive a reward if they interact with the TB positive sample.

As a final stage of training, our rats are exposed to 10 samples at a time beneath sniffing holes in one of our line cages. As they move along the cage our rats are trained to hold their noses over TB positive samples for 2-3 seconds.

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The World Health Organisation's latest statistics confirm that in 2018 a total of 1.5 million people died from TB and an estimated 10 million people fell ill with the disease. Worldwide, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death and the leading cause from a single infectious agent. 

With TB being both curable, and preventable, it's vital that we continue our valuable work in not only TB detection, but also training and innovation - your support is vital to our cause. In spite of our successes, much work remains to realise a world free of mines and TB. We are forging ahead through the course of 2020 with a renewed focus on the continuation of our efforts to bring good health, security, peace and the chance of development to the communities within which we work. With your continued support, we will be able to do so.

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On that note, GlobalGiving's Little by Little campaign is fast approaching and you'll be able to make your donations go further. 

Between 09:00:00 ET on March, 23, 2020 through 23:59:00 ET on March, 27, 2020 all eligible donations up to $50 will be matched at 50% at no extra cost to you. 

Keep your eyes peeled for our further project appeal email on March, 23, 2020.


Thank you for your incredible support for our work. 

APOPO colleague Marygiven preparing sputum samples
APOPO colleague Marygiven preparing sputum samples
Jan 16, 2020

Agroforestry and External Inspection

A farm boundary established by farmer Abdallah
A farm boundary established by farmer Abdallah

October to December 2019 was another busy quarter for our farmers. No new tree seedlings were planted but many of our farmers attended training on nursey management and GPS survey methods in order to accurately measure their plots to ensure efficient use of the land for plantations. A total of 90 farmers attended training in Q4 including 20 farmers from Ruvuma, 20 from Mgambazi, 20 from Tulo, 20 from Choma, and 10 from Kisosa.

When they weren't attending training Chemkeni Kisosa group continued the management of their tree nursery with indigenous tree species such as:

  • Bridelia micrantha
  • Syzigium guineeense
  • Ficus sycomorus

Twimanye Choma street group continued with the management of remaining seedlings in their nursery.

The new year has arrived and brought fresh motivation to continue this valuable work throughout 2020 and the focus of Q1 will be as follows:

  • The continuing development of a carbon curriculum
  • Payment for Carbon offset to eligible Farmers (our Tree Planting 'Heroes') following external inspection

As a busy quarter awaits us, we wish to thank you for your continued support. With each seedling planted you are developing local farmers, inspiring young people and helping the environment, one leaf at a time.

Agroforestry: Abdallah from Mgambazi growing maize
Agroforestry: Abdallah from Mgambazi growing maize
Zena in her agroforestry farm during inspection
Zena in her agroforestry farm during inspection
Dec 30, 2019

2019: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Landmine Detection : HeroRATs Arrive in Cambodia
Landmine Detection : HeroRATs Arrive in Cambodia

Another year has almost passed and my, what a year.

Thanks to your support we’ve been able to achieve so much and positively affect so many people across the world. Let’s take a nostalgic few moments to review some key moments from 2019.


On January 16th, 2019 we, alongside our partner Cambodia Mine Action Center (CMAC), were thrilled to announce the completion of a minefield in Dai Ao village of the Sre Noi Commune in Varin District. A handover ceremony was held to release 520,257 square meters of land back to the community.

In February 2019 we reached a landmark - 250,000 patients with signs and symptoms of tuberculosis (TB) retested since the TB programme began in 2007. "Our experiences from Mozambique and Tanzania show that it takes both speedy testing and community health worker support to make ‘Find & Treat’ come true for more and more patients.” - Dr Lena Fiebig, APOPO Head of Tuberculosis

In March 2019 we celebrated World TB Day - a day which educates the public on the massive burden caused by TB globally and calls on governments, civil society organizations, communities and others to step up efforts to jointly end TB.

In April 2019 we celebrated International Landmine Awareness Day reflecting upon our work and celebrating the achievements of our staff, partners, and landmine detection animals. We also welcomed 10 new landmine detection HeroRATs to their new home in Cambodia (thanks to the support of the People's Postcode Lottery) providing much-needed capacity to operations in Cambodia.

In May 2019 three HeroRATs moved to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington. HeroRATs Celine, Chiku and Mona Lisa act as ambassadors for our work and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is the first zoo to demonstrate to the American public how HeroRATs save lives through mock landmine detection training demonstrations

In June and July 2019 a video about our work developed by the South China Morning Post (SPMC) received over half a million views, furthering the knowledge of our work and impact throughout the world.

On August 5th, 2019 our TB detection team in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania was happy to host Second Secretary Kim Wilkinson from the Australian High Commission in Kenya at our Tuberculosis (TB) laboratory in Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania. The Australian High Commission’s Direct Aid Program (DAP) supported APOPO from January 2018 through July 2019 and the DAP grant allowed us to train six new young African giant pouched rats for our TB Detection program.

In September 2019 our very own Dr Georgies Mgode attended workshop titled 'Beyond the standard: Non-model vertebrates in biomedicine' in Berlin, Germany, where researchers from more than 20 countries gathered to share their experiences. Dr Mgode shared research experiences presenting African giant pouched rats and olfactory based medical application.

In October 2019 24 landmine detection rats boarded their first international flight for Cambodia. The rats arrived safely on Wednesday, October 23rd, raising the number of rats in our Cambodia program to 50.

On November 29th, 2019 we held a handover ceremony with residents of Trapeang Krasang, in Siem Reap Province, releasing 788,257 square meters of land that were cleared during August, September and October 2019 with over 170 anti-personnel landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) found and destroyed. The land was delivered back to 19 families from the village.

On December 10th, 2019 we celebrated Human Rights Day 2019 reflecting on the fact that human rights should be enjoyed by everyone. We took time to remember that our work is connected to human rights because landmines deprive thousands of people of their fundamental rights, such as safety, security and freedom of movement.

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The above is just a snapshot of all of the things we've been able to achieve, contribute to, and celebrate throughout 2019. It's thanks to your support that we're able to continue our fight against landmines and tuberculosis, whilst continuing valuable research and development into projects for the future.

As 2019 draws to a close, here's to 2020. Here's to working together to changes the lives of beneficiaries across the world.

We wish you a very Happy New Year to you, your family, and your friends. 

Tuberculosis Detection : Preparation of Samples
Tuberculosis Detection : Preparation of Samples
Landmine Detection : Tree Planting Ceremony
Landmine Detection : Tree Planting Ceremony
Tuberculosis Detection : A Beneficiary Named Asma
Tuberculosis Detection : A Beneficiary Named Asma
Landmine Detection : A HeroRAT and Handler
Landmine Detection : A HeroRAT and Handler
 
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