Rats are considered vermins which carry diseases that are often fatal to humans.

However, Magawa is one in a million - sort of. The five-year-old African giant pouched rat has saved countless lives by sniffing out deadly landmines in Cambodia.

For his invaluable contribution, Magawa was recently bestowed with the "Gold Medal" by the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a British charity. Initiated in 2002, the award recognises and rewards civilian acts of animal bravery and “devotion to duty”.

It is the highest honour recognising extraordinary bravery of animals, and is on par with the "George Cross" medal- the second highest award of the United Kingdom honours system, and is awarded to members of the British armed forces and British civilians for "acts of greatest heroism or courage in circumstance of extreme danger."

The rodent was trained by Belgian non-profit organisation APOPO, and in the last four years, Magawa has discovered 39 landmines and 28 pieces of unexploded ordnance, and helped clear more than 1.5 million square feet of land in Cambodia.

Magawa was trained to detect TNT, the chemical compound within explosives, and this means he can work faster than a human, as he can ignore scrap metal that would usually be picked up by a person using a metal detector.

In return for his win, PDSA plans to award Magawa with a handsome bonus, in the form of "bananas and peanuts", which he loves to eat.

Source: The New York Times, indianexpress.com
Photo source: AFP via The New York Times