They’ve named the furry critter MouSensor, and this little cutie could be the answer to saving lives in post war-stricken countries.
In the modern day, land minds are still scattered across the terrain in an estimated 70 nations. Most remain from previous invasions and wars. And when unsuspecting famers, walkers and others stumble upon them they lose limbs and often their lives.
Pioneer of the MouSensor project, Charlotte D’Hulst, from Hunter College explained to The Guardian: “Long after wars have ended, communities are still impeded from going back to their normal, daily activities because of all these mines still affecting their land.”
In 1997 a project called HeroRATS, from Belgium company Apopo, trained African giant pouched rats to sniff out tuberculosis and landmines. A rat’s strong smell and the fact that they can be easily trained means that just two of them could potentially clear land mines in up to 300 sq metres in a couple of hours. It would be far more risky, and take around two days for a person to do the same space in the same time. Though it’s an incredibly clever project, it’s not particularly time effective. Each rat needs a lot of training – up to 9 months worth per rat.
The new MouSensors, however, are bread to have a more acute sense of smell and D’Hulst believes that the smell of DNT will be so strong that the rodent will change its behaviour when it comes across a land mine.
“We are thinking along the lines of implanting a chip under the skin of these animals that would wirelessly report back to a computer when the animal’s behaviour is changing upon being triggered by a TNT landmine,” said D’Hulst to The Guardian.
The new discovery could potentially save thousands of lives worldwide per year.