Training rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis


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Web http://www.apopo.org/home.php


About the project Edit

APOPO is a social enterprise that researches, develops and disseminates detection rats technology for humanitarian purposes.

APOPO trains rats to conduct landmine detection as well as tuberculosis detection. Thanks to their exceptional sense of smell, rats perform these tasks very efficiently. Moreover, rats are a local and low-tech alternative to other means of landmine and tuberculosis detection. Rats are cheap, easily trainable, and perform these repetitive detection tasks way faster then humans or trained dogs.


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

This project puts to use rats that are found locally in Tanzania(where the project was initiated). Because of their phenomenal sense of smell, they provide an efficient alternative to using humans or trained dogs to detect landmines. Rats are lightweight: so much they can't trigger landmines.

Their sense of smell and ability to perform repetitive tasks after training allows them to be used for tuberculosis detection as well. They prove themselves to be way more efficient than traditional microscopic tests performed by humans.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

It is a cheap and efficient solution to the landmine problem because the rats can be bred locally, fed with local food, and trained by local staff in the communities in which APOPO works. APOPO provides quality jobs to over 200 local people.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

Since the initiative started in Tanzania, APOPO has expanded to Mozambique and Thailand.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Bart Weetjens, the founder of APOPO, loved playing with his pet rats when he was a young boy. Years later, as a student at the University of Antwerp, Bart applied the idea of using rodents for mine detection as an outcome of his analysis of the global mine detection problems.

Due to his childhood experience, he knew that rats, with their strong sense of smell and trainability, could provide a cheaper, more efficient, and locally available means to detect landmines. Early research into this technology began in Belgium, with initial financial support given from the Belgian Directorate for International Co-operation (DGIS) in 1997 to develop the concept. In 2000, APOPO moved its headquarters to Morogoro, Tanzania, following partnerships with the Sokoine University of Agriculture and the Tanzanian People’s Defence Force. Now housed by the University, APOPO trains the rats – termed HeroRATs because of their life-saving capabilities – in near-to-real conditions.

In 2003, APOPO began operations in Mozambique, with its first Mine Detection Rats achieving official accreditation according to International Mine Action Standards in 2004. Fully integrated mine-clearance operations began in Mozambique in 2006.

In 2003, APOPO won the World Bank Development Marketplace Global Competition, which provided seed funding to commence research into another application of detection rats technology: Tuberculosis (TB) detection. In 2008, APOPO provided proof of principle for the utilization of trained rats in detecting pulmonary tuberculosis in human sputum samples. In 2010, APOPO launched a three-year research plan to closely examine the effectiveness of detection rats in diagnosing tuberculosis, in comparison to other diagnostic technologies, and to focus on future implementation models.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

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