In Cambodia, more than 19,000 people were killed and 51,000 wounded by landmines / ERW. About 6 million mines have been placed across Cambodia in wars and conflicts that lasted from 1971 to 1993.
Thanks to the special mice, trained to be able to sniff and locate TNT explosives inside bombs and mines, the speed of clearance of mines in Cambodia has been significantly improved. Training and control of these mice is APOPO group and Ouk Chan, 30, is one of them.
Mr. Ouk Chan and his favorite mouse
Mr. Ouk often has to get up early, about 4am to start his job. The first thing his team needed to do was to take the mice out of the cage, put on sunscreen and then put it in the box, then get in the car to get to the location where the mine was needed. Ouk shared that his team needed to work early in the morning because the weather would be cooler and the mice would have higher performance. Mice often sleep during the day and go to eat at night so working early in the morning also helps them have more rest time.
APOPO is a non-governmental organization established in Tanzania. However, this organization is currently supporting the clearance of landmines around the world. APOPO countries have supported Angola, Mozambique, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
Before work, the mice need to wear belts and then hook into a rope. Once the preparation process has been completed, the mine detection process will begin. The task of these big African mice is to use their special nose to detect and locate TNT explosives inside mines and ERW. This rat species can detect 1/1000 grams of TNT.
Another member of APOPO
Besides, using a mouse to detect mines is also faster than using a metal detector. It is also safer because a mouse weighs only 1.5kg and can run around without fear of accidentally activating mines. Mice only detect mines while metal detectors will alert even when seeing iron, steel, copper … so it makes mine detection process longer.
A mouse can detect yourself in an area that is equal to a tennis court in just 30 minutes. If using a mine detector, it will take 4 days to clean up an area of the same area. APOPO set up 0.5-meter-wide roads for rats and the mine detection process will take place slowly, half a meter until the entire minefield area is cleaned. A mouse can clear an area of 400 square meters every day.
When detecting any leftover bombs, APOPO will call the demining team to deal with it. Until now, Ouk Chan and APOPO have removed more than 5,000 of their fruits and 40,000 bombs in Cambodia. Even so, APOPO still has a lot of work to do. About 6 million of his fruits were placed throughout Cambodia in the wars and conflicts that lasted from 1971 to 1993.
The trail where Mr. Ouk and his team are searching for mines has been abandoned for 20 years. Do not want any people who want to go on this road because they are afraid to hit landmines.
Den Deum, a 31-year-old farmer, lost one eye because of mines and ERW. When Den was 7 years old, a cow that he had been forced to landmines and exploded, Den was stunned to be unable to float and was damaged by an explosion in the eye.
In Cambodia, more than 19,000 people were killed and 51,000 injured by landmines / UXO left over from the war and about half of them were children. APOPO has been clearing landmines on Den's property since 2017 and now Den's children can comfortably run and jump without fear. Den also began being able to grow corn on his land after many years of abandonment.
"These mice are so smart, APOPO team has been doing a great job", Den said.
In general, the majority of Cambodians eat rats. "I also eat rats but since working and living with these mice I have not eaten rats anymore.", Ouk said. "We consider these mice like brothers and treat them like family members. We feed them and take care of them like you."
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