Support APOPO's rats in their life-saving missions

by APOPO vzw
Many Items Found
Many Items Found

Location: Maputo, Mozambique

Items Destroyed: 39,000 items of UXO

Weight: 80 Tons

Returned Land to Local Communities: 11,463,861 square meters

Since late 2015, APOPO has been carrying out controlled bulk demolitions as an integral part of its unexploded ordnance (UXO) and ammunitions clearance in the Malhazine Complex in Maputo, Mozambique. APOPO has safely executed 17 bulk demolitions destroying 80 tons.

Mozambique's Mine History

Mozambique’s landmine problem was once one of the most severe in the world, with a legacy of landmines and explosive remnants of war from decades of conflict. Tens of thousands of landmines were laid in the country during its 1964-1975 fight for independence and throughout the civil war that followed.

Living in Fear - Sam’s Story

Sam is a farmer and community leader in Mozambique whose community has been terrorised by hidden land-mines left over from the war 30 years ago. He told us about his experience of living in fear:

“My family lives near pylons that were mined in the civil war to protect them from sabotage. My friend was killed trying to retrieve his cow from the mined field. Sometimes we had to take risks and farm the land or cross it for a shortcut.  I found my children playing there.

Then APOPO arrived to clear the fields. They used machines, manual deminers and mine detection rats. At some pylons, they found no mines, at others there were many. 

The pylons were protected by ‘terror’ - a terror my children have lived with all their lives and that somewhere APOPO is reducing every day.  Our land is once again ours to farm and our children are safe.” 

 Dangerous Work

Some items are highly degraded and fused making them quite dangerous and unstable while others are un-fused and appear in relatively good condition. APOPO is on an on-going basis organizing and preparing these items for safe destruction. Due to the trauma the local community suffered during the two main explosions in 1985 and 2007, APOPO is not permitted to make in situ demolitions, as it would result in mass panic in the densely populated areas directly around Malhazine. For this reason, APOPO makes the demolitions at the designated Central Demolition Site (CDS), in Moamba about 70km from APOPO's operations in Malhazine.

Future Operations

At this time, APOPO is actively fundraising to resume ammunitions clearance operations in 2017. APOPO has been tasked by the IND & CIPEM to clear two additional areas in the Malhazine Complex, and hopes to soon have sufficient funding confirmed to begin working on the new tasks in January.

 Thank you for your support. We are very appreciative.

Sam Mucavelli - Farmer and Community Leader
Sam Mucavelli - Farmer and Community Leader
Free from Fear
Free from Fear
HeroRATs Sniffing Out Mines
HeroRATs Sniffing Out Mines


Cambodian HeroRAT
Cambodian HeroRAT

The HeroRATs in Cambodia have helped our partner CMAC complete clearance of a second minefield since they were deployed at the beginning of the year.

Location: Khnar Phtoul Village, Srae Nouy Commune, Siem Reap

Area: 95,522 m2 (approx. 9 soccer pitches)

Total time taken: 30 operational days

What was found?

  • 6 landmines
  • 3 unexploded mortar bombs

HeroRats Saving Lives

Eight families, totaling around 40 people, have lived next door to the landmines for the last 25 years and have been forced to sometime farm on unsafe land in order to feed themselves. They are already getting on with the serious business of growing rice crops on the newly safe land.

The whole village were overjoyed at being free from the dangers of mines The Village Chief wanted to share his appreciation:

“On the behalf of the village authority as well as all the families in our community, I would just like to say a very big thank you to the APOPO/CMAC teams and the donors that support them. I commend them all for their bravery. We are so grateful that they have returned our land to us completely free from landmines. It has been difficult for me to watch our community struggling to develop and living in constant fear. All of us are eager to get back to tilling the land and providing for our families.”

Vorn Saveith, Village Chief, Khnar Phtoul village

Thank you HeroRATS!

13 Mine Detection Rats were deployed alongside CMAC demining teams. These HeroRATs are the ‘landmine detectors’ that significantly speed up landmine clearance because they are trained to detect only explosive scent which means they ignore the scrap metal that slows down metal detectors on their way to the landmines.

As ever our hats go off to the brave individuals carrying out this dangerous work.


Three new rat pups have been born via the APOPO breeding program, which is gearing up for imminent APOPO program expansion.  There is a lot going on right now and because it takes around 9 months to fully train a HeroRAT, the breeding program is ramping up its activities to ensure that we are ready for future needs.

Last week three new pups were born to Avatar and her mate Gamble.  A rat litter is generally between two and five pups that remain with their mother for 3-5 weeks before they begin their socialization process. This begins with a week of ever-increasing periods away from their mother, to play with Uncle Albert (our resident rat socializer). After this they are fully separated from their mother and spend another week of socialization with rat trainers, before their scent detection training formally begins. This initial socialization period gets them used to working with people and ensures that they are comfortable with being handled, and that the everyday smells and hubbub of the modern environment in which they will soon work will not interfere with their subsequent training.

A warm welcome to our newest Heroes!

Thank you for your support!


Kind regards,

The HeroRat Team

Baby HeroPUPS
Baby HeroPUPS


HeroRATS to Sniff Out Mines in Zimbabwe
HeroRATS to Sniff Out Mines in Zimbabwe


HeroRATs Hired!

We have some very exciting news!

APOPO and the Ministry of Defense of the Government of Zimbabwe have officially signed a historic agreement to allow APOPO to begin clearing landmines in the country.

History of Mines in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s landmines were laid during the Liberation War of Independence (also known as The Second Chimurenga of the 1970’s) by the army of Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe was then known). The Rhodesian military created lethal barriers along the border to Mozambique to keep liberation forces at bay.

These are some of the most mine-impacted areas in the world with 5,500 landmines per kilometer at some border minefields. However, other areas nearer to towns and villages are also suspected of low-level landmine contamination, and the mines effectively render vast tracts of their land off-limits. As well as the tragic accidents that inevitable occur, local communities are also unable to access basic needs such as prime farming land, paths and market routes, and expansion of residential and business areas, and sustaining a perpetual cycle of poverty.

Enter the HeroRATs!

This is where the HeroRATs come in. Ignoring scrap metal and only detecting the scent of explosives, they are able to check large areas of land much faster than conventional methods such as technicians with metal detectors. This saves more lives by halting further injuries, and gets people back on their productive land as fast as possible.

Further Impact of your Donation

We recognised the need for faster TB diagnosis as paramount, which is why we are thrilled to announce APOPO’s new TB facility in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, due to open in July 2016.

In partnership with the Tanzanian Veterinary Laboratory Agency (TVLA), the facility will include a new TB center with a top-notch lab, brand new rat facilities and TB detection rooms.

About 10 HeroRats will be deployed to screen samples, increasing the number screened by over 50%.  Located in Dar es Salaam, the new facility will cut waiting times for the delivery of results to 12 hours. This means that TB positive patients will be treated the following day, which is not only good for the patient, but will reduce the risk of them infecting other people.

We thank you for your support, without which we could not have achieved this remarkable next step!

Kind regards,

The HeroRat Team


Enter the HeroRATs!
Enter the HeroRATs!


The rats get regular health check ups (wth Shafii)
The rats get regular health check ups (wth Shafii)

APOPO places a high value on animal welfare. As the organization is built around the rats, we ensure that they are treated like the heroes they truly are. With your support, our staff makes sure the HeroRATs are in good health and well cared for and can save many more lives!

One of the aspects our rats receive is environmental enrichment through the use of toys, objects for chewing, and a clay pot in their cages. It is important that animals such as the HeroRATs receive environmental enrichment because without they will become bored, causing stress, aggression and lowered performance.

“We provide enrichment items that increase species-specific behavior and enhance the rats' wellbeing,” explains Shafii, APOPO’s early training supervisor. “We always say that a happy rat is a better performer so we make sure they have all they need.”

All the HeroRATs are provided with enrichment items like a specifically designed clay pot that provides a dark and cool environment, wood to gnaw on, bedding to make a nest and some toys, such as little balls and boxes made of toilet paper rolls and filled up with peanuts. These toys motivate the animals to forage for food, behavior specific for the Cricetomys Gambianus.

Wild African giant pouched rats make a number of foraging trips in a typical night, gathering food in their pouches and returning to their burrow to store it. Their cheek pouches help them to harvest food while out foraging and defer eating until reaching the safety of their burrow, thereby reducing exposure to predators.

“All trainers get to learn about the rats’ behaviour and health when they start with APOPO,” says Shafii. “Over the time you learn so much about the rats and their needs and every trainer develops a bond with the animals. It is this bond all trainers feel toward the HeroRATs, what makes APOPO a special place to work and such a special project to support.”

We're very grateful for your support that helps us treat our Heroes the way they deserve it.


Shafii and the HeroRAT team

A claypot provides a dark and cool environment
A claypot provides a dark and cool environment
Toys motivate the animals to forage for food
Toys motivate the animals to forage for food
Every trainer develops a bond with the HeroRATs
Every trainer develops a bond with the HeroRATs


Margarida was APOPO deminer and is now on training
Margarida was APOPO deminer and is now on training

Our brave little HeroRATs always work alongside human colleagues, like the demining staff. APOPO's deminers in Mozambique have demonstrated tremendous commitment, sacrifice and dedication in helping rid the country of thousands of landmines and return safe land to the people of Mozambique.

Now the country has successfully resolved its landmine problem, it no longer requires such a large core of deminers. For many of APOPO's staff in Mozambique, APOPO was their first formal professional experience, and due to the narrowly specialized and highly technical nature of the work, they may struggle to compete for future work opportunities without new skillsets.

APOPO therefore initiated a vocational training course, allowing our former deminers to acquire new skills and undertake an alternative career. APOPO is offering a range of courses in cooperation with the Mozambican National Institute of Employment and Vocational Training (INEFP): plumbing, carpenter, small business management, accounting, agro-processing and many more.

Last year 61 people enrolled and they have all recently completed their courses with positive feedback. We’re happy to announce some have already found a new job or started a small business on their own, allowing them to provide for themselves and their families. This year another 70 people will participate in the training.

Thank you so much for joining us in the fight against landmines and helping us to support our deminer-Heroes build up a new life!

Learn more about our work, staff and HeroRATS by visiting our website or following us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


Warm regards,


APOPO and the HeroRATs

Former deminers are now preparing for a new career
Former deminers are now preparing for a new career
APOPO deminers helped rid Mozambique of landmines
APOPO deminers helped rid Mozambique of landmines



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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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