After it was reported that dogs are being trained to detect COVID-infected passengers at airports, it’s now the time for rats to shine.
Researchers are working on training rats to send them into earthquake debris with tiny backpacks so that rescuers can talk to survivors.
According to Telegraph, seven rats have already been trained to carry prototype backpacks, that contain a microphone, into mock debris. These rodents are trained to respond to a beep that would then call them back to the base
APOPO is training HeroRATs for Search & Rescue. The rats have a great sense of smell, and can move through small spaces to search for survivors. The basic behavioral sequence is: search for victim, pull ball to communicate victim has been found, then return to trainer for reward. pic.twitter.com/gAaBj8zMB5— APOPO (@HeroRATs) April 5, 2022
Dr Donna Kean, a research scientist working on the project, says that rats are good at surviving off anything and are surprisingly sociable. She also says that the fact that they’re nimble and have never set off a landmine makes them ideal for use in disaster zones. “There is a misconception that they are dirty and unhygienic. They are well looked after with us,” she says, “When we get the new backpacks we will be able to hear from where we are based and where the rat is, inside the debris. We have the potential to speak to victims through the rat.”
Kean is based in Morogoro, in Tanzania (East Africa), where she is working with the non-profit organisation APOPO for this ‘Hero Rats’ project.
These rats will be sent to Turkey, which is prone to earthquakes, and will assist a search and rescue team. In total 170 rats will be trained under this project and will be used to help out in landmine and TB detection, the latter is a big problem that is impacting livestock.
"You've got to get up every morning with determination if you're going to go to bed with satisfaction."#HeroRAT Korosho belongs to a cohort of rats that have successfully completed their landmine detection training in Morogoro, Tanzania and have been internally accredited. 🏅 pic.twitter.com/cu0Fy4Sg1l— APOPO (@HeroRATs) May 16, 2022
Kean is optimistic about her rats, “We hope it will save lives, the results are really promising.”
Let’s hope this works!