Rats being trained to help in finding disaster survivors

The rodent species will be able to identify survivors stuck under debris.

In a bid to make search and rescue operations more effective as well as rewarding, a Belgian non-profit NGO by the name APOPO is training rats with backpacks with an aim to search for people trapped under rubble in disastrous events such as an earthquake when the task of identifying the survivors becomes extremely arduous.

Donna Kean, leader of the project who is also a behavioural research scientist explained the logic behind selecting rats for the program stating that rats are typically quite curious and like to explore which is the key for search and rescue. Additionally, rats also have an adventurous nature and move speedily even around tight places.

Currently, the selected rats are in the initial stages of their training where they must locate a person in an empty room, trigger a beeper attached to the backpacks they have tied around them and return to the starting point. In the later stages, the backpack will also be equipped with a video camera and a two-way microphone along with a location transmitter.

Traditionally, the company has its headquarters in Tanzania where it has the experience of training the giant African pouched rats to sniff out land mines and detect tuberculosis. The company believes that so far, the results have looked positive as by now the rats have also adapted to having a backpack load over them and with the history of its past expertise in Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development, the future of training rats to find survivors trapped in cataclysm-like situations like earthquakes and hurricanes looks more than revolutionary.

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