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‘Herorats’ to help rescue victims of disasters!

Seeing how many people lost life under collapsed buildings following natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes is heartbreaking. Finding survivors in such situations can be challenging for search and rescue teams. Fortunately, these rodents have ample training to help out. Trained rats carry cameras and search for survivors in disaster areas using tiny backpacks.

The project, run by a non-profit organization called Project APOPO, involves sending out rats with high-tech backpacks that help search and rescue teams find survivors in collapsed buildings. According to Dr. Donna Kean, the rats are very curious and are good at exploring.

More info: APOPO | Instagram

Trained rats can determine the location of potential victims by pulling a handle attached to their necks.

Image credits: donnaeilidhkean

These rodents help locate people in a mock disaster zone, which was an earthquake. They will use a backpack with an audio-visual communication system to relay messages from within the debris field. They also have been taught to pull a switch around their neck to locate victims.

The African Giant rats are known to be very smart and have an adventurous spirit due to their size. They can also locate objects in tight spaces. 

Image credits: APOPO

The rats must first find an individual inside an empty room to set off an alarm. Besides their small size, the rats’ sense of smell and their ability to locate things in tight spaces make them ideal for this project. In order to find a target person in a disaster zone, the rats have to first locate an empty room. 

These rodents are not the usual rodents that people often associate with diseases and garbage. They are African Giant pouched rats, which can weigh up to 3.3 pounds.

Image credits: APOPO

Like dogs, rats are trainable. They have a great sense of smell, and they are small enough to fit in small spaces. 

According to Dr. Donna Kean, who led the study, training rats could help them better search for survivors in confined areas.

Image credits: APOPO

Also, these rats are very biddable, which means they can be trained just like a dog. Captive rats can live up to 10 years, which is longer than the lifespans of other rodents.

Image credits: APOPO

The rats were able to perform the basic steps of a search within a limited area during the testing phase.

Image credits: APOPO

The project is still in its primary stages, as the rodents are still learning how to use the backpack. The organization is working with a university in the Netherlands to develop a device that will allow first responders to communicate with survivors using a video camera and a two-way microphone. 

Image credits: APOPO

The African Giant rats are known to be very smart and have an adventurous spirit due to their size. 

Image credits: APOPO

The rats learn the primary behavioral sequence of searching for and moving into proximity of a trapped victim. They could then trigger a microswitch by pulling a ball attached to their vest. They could also return to a release point once the handler activated a signal.

Image credits: APOPO

The training sessions aimed to train the rats to find people in a disaster zone, such as an earthquake. They will also be using a backpack equipped with a wireless communication system to communicate with each other. They also are trained to pull a switch around their necks to locate victims.

Image credits: APOPO
Image credits: APOPO

According to Donna Kean, the training and the backpack will allow the rodents to be incredibly useful in search and rescue operations.

Image credits: APOPO

The rodents will have to pull a switch that activates a beeper, and they will be rewarded once they return to their base.

Image credits: APOPO
Image credits: APOPO

Even after a year of training, these rats can still work for a long time.

Image credits: APOPO
Image credits: APOPO

They move toward the location of a trapped victim and use the microswitch to communicate with their handler.

Image credits: APOPO
Image credits: APOPO
Image credits: APOPO

In Tanzania, the organization has trained rats and dogs to detect mines for over a decade.

Image credits: APOPO

More info: APOPO | Instagram

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