Support APOPO's rats in their life-saving missions

by APOPO vzw
Nov 4, 2011

HeroRAT Newsletter - October 2011

Young TB-sniffing HeroRAT
Young TB-sniffing HeroRAT

TB sniffing rats on the move to Mozambique

In an exciting new development, APOPO’s proposal to expand our Tuberculosis (TB) Detection Program into Mozambique was approved by the Flemish Government. Minister-President Kris Peeters announced on October 21st that APOPO will be awarded a grant of 590,000 Euros to implement the first phase of a project designed to accelerate TB case detection in Mozambique. 

Increasing the detection rate of TB patients remains one of the main challenges to combat this fast spreading disease. Mozambique has a high incidence of TB, with an estimated 431 cases per 100,000 people (World Health Organization, 2007) and remains in the list of high TB burden countries. 

In the short term, APOPO aims to significantly increase the rate of new TB case findings in Mozambique by replicating the success of our TB Detection Program in Tanzania. APOPO’s detection rats technology meets the seven top priorities required for a diagnostic method, as determined by the TB diagnostic group of the World Health Organization.The first phase of this exciting new project will involve implementing collaboration agreements, establishing an operational TB detection capacity, and evaluating the established operation. APOPO is grateful for the ongoing support of the Flemish Government, in furthering our efforts to provide an efficient and reliable solution to this global public health challenge.


TakePart feature: A Nose Knows 

Earlier this year, TakePart travelled to the Skoll World Forum in England to pick the brains of the world’s biggest thinkers. The resulting video series of these “Innovators in Action” showcases their ideas, enthusiasm, and solutions for creating a better world.

Among those featured in the collection is APOPO Founder, Bart Weetjens. In a clip titled “A Nose Knows: HeroRATs Sniff Out Tuberculosis and Land Mines”, Bart talks of changing perceptions in regards to detection rats as a disease diagnostic technology: “Rats are thought of as a cause of disease, they are not necessarily a solution to disease – well, we turned this around completely.” 

You can view Bart’s interview, along with many other “Innovators in Action” working to improve our world, on the TakePart website here:


Tanzania’s Uhuru 50th Anniversary event 

This month, APOPO’s HeroRATs stepped out to join the celebrations of Tanzania’s Uhuru Festival, marking the 50th Anniversary since independence! APOPO was invited by partner organization, the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), to share a display booth providing information about APOPO’s Tuberculosis (TB) Detection Program during a week-long event hosted by the Ministry of Health.

HeroRAT trainers Haruni and Mark showed great national pride in demonstrating the skills and efficiency of our Tanzanian-born TB detection rats. In a series of training sessions, our expert sniffer rats screened line-ups of human sputum samples and were able to accurately indicate which samples were TB-positive. While the rats took a rest in between sessions, footage of APOPO’s work was displayed on a monitor and staff was at hand to answer the questions of many curious visitors.

Our HeroRATs stole the spotlight as one of the most popular displays at the event, regularly drawing large crowds of onlookers – including none other than  the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Blandina S.J. Nyoni, who was impressed with the sensitivity of APOPO’s innovative diagnostic method!

APOPO is grateful for the opportunity to attend this event and raise awareness about the TB problem. We forward to continuing a strong and productive partnership with NIMR, as together we strive to increase TB case findings in Tanzania. 


Thailand Mine Action Program update

A mine action workshop on “Enhanced Operational Approaches through the Application of Land Release Methodology” took place last month in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The workshop was hosted by the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) in cooperation with the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), the Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD).

Among those in attendance was APOPO’s Thailand Program Manager, Andrew Sully, who presented the preliminary results of the APOPO-PRO Mine Action team’s survey progress along the Thai-Cambodian border.

After ten weeks of surveying an area of approximately 30 square kilometers, APOPO-PRO’s Technical Survey (TS) intervention teams located 165 anti-personnel mines and 17 anti-tank mines. These items were found during targeted investigations of Non-Technical Survey (NTS) information.
The team also determined that 40% of land could potentially be re-classified as Confirmed Hazardous Areas (CHA), while 35% of land could potentially be re-classified as either Cancelled Land (16%) or Area With Restriction (19%).

These preliminary results are promising, but a long-term strategy is needed to help Thailand rid itself entirely from its landmine problem. APOPO-PRO intends to implement a full cross-border mine action approach in Thailand and Cambodia, provided the necessary funding is secured. If successful in attaining this much-needed support, a team of trained Mine Detection Rats will be deployed to South East Asia to assist in speeding up clearance efforts in the region. For more information, please contact APOPO-PRO Program Manager, Andrew Sully.

On behalf of the entire APOPO team, we’d like to extend our best wishes to everyone affected by the devastating floods in Thailand.


Raising a GOOD question about giant rats in Thailand

One good thing a day – that’s the promise of GOOD. Over 180,000 online subscribers receive “the daily GOOD” newsletter in their email inbox each day, and last month our giant rats were lucky enough to be the GOOD topic of the day!

In their email, GOOD raised the question: Could Giant Rats Eliminate Landmines in Thailand? The effect of the email and its counterpart post online was instant, with more than 330 responses via the website and Twitter, as well as over 700 recommendations via Facebook. It seems if the public had their way, a team of APOPO’s trained Mine Detection Rats and handlers would be on the next plane to South East Asia! To view the article & comment stream online, or to get the daily GOOD, click here

In their own words, "GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward. Since 2006, they've been making a magazine, videos, and events for people who give a damn. The GOOD team cares about what works – what is sustainable, prosperous, productive, creative, and just – for each and every one of us." Visit for more. 


APOPO website now online in German 

APOPO is excited to announce that our website is now available in German! With this new linguistic offering, we hope to spread the word of APOPO’s life-saving riesenhamsterratten to all of our German-speaking supporters around the globe.

We’d like to thank our dedicated team of German-speaking volunteers, who worked tirelessly to translate and edit our entire website text. A round of applause for Agapi, Benjamin, Christine, Dirk, Domenique, Fatima, Katharina, Katrin, Maren, Mario, Sarah, Sebastion, Stefan, Susette, and Wencke!

The HeroRAT team would also like to extend a special hero-sized thank you (and several years’ worth of banana treats) to journalist and HeroRAT adopter Claudia Müenster, who not only translated much of our text but also worked around the clock to proofread all of our website for accuracy and consistency.

We, along with our German fans, extend our deepest gRATitude to all those who volunteered their time and skills to make this translation happen! You can visit the new German website here:


Adopt-a-Rat Ambassadors put their best paws forward

Thanks to all of our fabulous Facebook fans who took part in our online Vote-a-Rat contest – and had the rare opportunity to suggest names for the new faces of APOPO’s Adopt-a-Rat program!

Our four beloved HeroRATs, Kim, Tyson, Ziko and Chosen One have enjoyed their tenure as rats featured for adoption on our website. While they will continue to save lives and limbs and mail updates to their legions of loyal adopters, they are graciously stepping out of the limelight to allow four young HeroRATs to share their training journeys with our Adopt-a-Rat community.

Visit our Facebook page to meet the fresh new faces of our Adopt-a-Rat program, who will soon appear on our website for adoption – and join us in wishing them every success as they commence their heroic training journeys!


Many thanks for your ongoing support as we work towards creating a safer, healthier and better world for all.

Warm regards,

The HeroRAT team


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Organization Information


Location: Morogoro, Tanzania - Tanzania, United Republic of
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Nadia Chergui
Morogoro, Tanzania, United Republic of

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