Giant rat wins animal hero award for sniffing out landmines

A rat has for the first time won a British charity’s top civilian award for animal bravery, receiving the honour for searching out unexploded landmines in Cambodia.

Cambodian landmine detection rat, Magawa is photographed wearing his PDSA Gold Medal, the animal equivalent of the George Cross, in Siem, Cambodia. (PDSA via AP)

Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, was awarded the PDSA’s Gold Medal for his “lifesaving bravery and devotion” after discovering 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordinance in the past seven years, according to the charity.

First known as the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, PDSA started as a free veterinary clinic in 1917 and has honoured heroic animals since 1943.

Magawa was trained by a Belgian organisation that has taught rats to find landmines for more than 20 years.

PDSA also awards the Dickin Medal for military service. The medal has been awarded to 34 dogs, 32 pigeons, four horses and one cat since it was created in 1943.