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Rats are known to be amongst the most sensitive animals if it comes to smell. They will sense where a mine is buried or if a sample contains disease. Moreover, their sensitivity for a specific scent increases with the amount of training.
The African Giant Pouched Rat is an intelligent animal, relatively calm and trainable. Once learned, they like to perform repetitive tasks. Moreover, their long lifespan of up to eight years means they can be productive for many years.
The Cricetomys are mostly just over a kilogram, which is not enough to set of a mine. Therefore, they are trained to pauze or to scratch on the surface where they have found a landmine.
The "Cricetomys Gambianus" or "African Giant Pouched Rat" is native to most of Sub-Saharan Africa, adapted to the local environment and widely available.
Rats do not bond closely to their trainers, which poses a logistic advantage when transferring the animals between trainers or when sending them abroad for operations.
Rats are cheap to source, feed, breed and maintain. Their small size makes them also cheap and easy to transport, locally and internationally.
Endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa, the African Pouched rats are well adapted to the environment. APOPO's rats in captivity are mostly in excellent health and live long lives.