By lex, on December 4th, 2010

Courtesy of VX, mine-detecting rats:

Reporting from Bogota, Colombia — Rats may soon become heroic figures in this nation’s struggle to detect and dispose of land mines.

Early next year, anti-narcotics police will begin deploying squads of rats to sniff out land mines in remote areas of Colombia where leftist rebels and drug traffickers have planted hundreds of thousands of the deadly devices. It’s an unconventional initiative in a country that is second only to Afghanistan in the number of land mine victims.

Using a project in Tanzania as a model, Colombian scientists have taught rats to detect mines buried as deep as 3 feet. The rats are conditioned to search and burrow down for explosives in exchange for the reward of sugar…

Rats have the advantage over bomb-sniffing dogs of being so light that they do not detonate explosives, as canines sometimes do. And researchers have found that the rodents are more adept than dogs at sensing explosives when the materials have been masked with coffee grounds, feces, fish, mercury and other substances.

“The more I work with rats, the more I am amazed at what they can do,” said Luisa Fernanda Mendez, a civilian behavioral veterinarian in charge of the rat-training project.

Cheaper than dogs, and no one sheds a tear when, well: You know.


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