Not all animal superheroes wear capes, but they do get gold medals! Magawa, a landmine detection rat who has been saving lives in Cambodia, has been awarded the PDSA Gold Medal for his bravery and devotion to duty. Awarded by the UK’s leading veterinary charity, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, this medal is the animal equivalent of the George Cross.
HeroRAT Magawa (yes, that is his official job title) is the first rat in the charity’s 77-year history of honoring animals to receive a PDSA Medal. He joins the ranks of courageous dogs, brave horses, valorous pigeons, and an intrepid cat.
Magawa is an African giant poached rat who has been trained to detect landmines by charity APOPO. He’s also the charity’s leading and most successful rodent. To date, Magawa the HeroRAT has discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance. He also cleared and made safe over 141,000 square meters (over 1.5 million square feet) of land for local people. Magawa proves that even the smallest animal can change the course of the future. Scroll down to have a look at the heroic rat and for Bored Panda’s interview with the PDSA team.
Magawa is officially being presented the unique miniature PDSA Gold Medal via live link between Cambodia and the UK by the veterinary charity’s Director General Jan McLoughlin today, on September 25. You can watch it all right here.
Meet Magawa the rat who is officially being presented with the PDSA Gold Medal for his exceptional bravery
Here’s Magawa wearing his medal
And here he is posing with his human colleague Malen
Just look at how proud he is!
PDSA told Bored Panda that Magawa’s miniature medal was designed and struck by court jewelers and medallists Cleave & Co, who also created the Duchess of Sussex’s, Meghan Markle’s, engagement ring. “They make all the PDSA Medals,” the team said.
The PDSA Gold Medal was struck from a die, using traditional methods. “It is 18.25mm in diameter and weighs 3.9g (the full-size Medal is 38.5mm and 29.2g). Both medals equate to standard British campaign medals.”
PDSA Awards and Heritage Manager Amy Dickin told us that everyone at PDSA and APOPO is “incredibly excited” for Magawa the rat to receive the PDSA Gold Medal.
“Because of the impacts COVID has had on the UK—and wider world—our original presentation plans had to be completely re-worked. Meaning Magawa actually brings two firsts to PDSA—the first rat honored with a PDSA Medal and our first-ever virtual presentation,” Dickin said. “We’re thrilled to be shining the spotlight on his amazing work and can’t wait for everyone to see him in action!”
Magawa is making history because he is the first rat to be honored with a PDSA Medal
“The work of HeroRAT Magawa and APOPO is truly unique and outstanding. Cambodia estimates that between 4 and 6 million landmines were laid in the country between 1975 and 1998, which have sadly caused over 64,000 casualties,” PDSA Director General McLoughlin said.
“HeroRAT Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women, and children who are impacted by these landmines. Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people. The PDSA Animal Awards program seeks to raise the status of animals in society and honor the incredible contribution they make to our lives. Magawa’s dedication, skill, and bravery are an extraordinary example of this and deserve the highest possible recognition. We are thrilled to award him the PDSA Gold Medal.”
The African giant poached rat is responsible for saving lives and making safe huge tracts of land in Cambodia
Magawa takes his job very seriously
CEO of charity APOPO, Christophe Cox, said that HeroRATs have amazing senses of smell and excellent memories.
“We use clicker training to teach rats like Magawa to scratch at the earth above a landmine. During the training they hear a ‘click’ and receive a tasty food reward for finding the correct target scent,” Cox said. The land that Magawa and his fellow rodents make safe allows local communities to expand and then improve their livelihoods.
Magawa has been trained by charity APOPO to detect landmines. He does this far faster than a human being with a metal detector could!
The PDSA Gold Medal is an award instituted in 2002 that is given to civilian animals for exceptional devotion to duty and life-saving bravery. Magawa is the 30th recipient of the PDSA Gold Medal and the first non-canine to receive it.
The charity’s founder, Maria Dickin, created the Animal Awards Programme back in 1943. She believed that recognizing animals for their heroics would raise their status in society and ensure better treatment. Besides the PDSA Gold Medal, the charity also awards the PDSA Dickin Medal, the PDSA Order of Merit, and the PDSA Commendation.
The charity itself was founded in 1917 and has since then provided free and reduced-cost vet care to pets of people in need. The charity believes that no pet should suffer because of their owner’s financial hardship.
Over the years, PDSA has helped over 20 million pets and provided 100 million treatments. If you want to lend a helping hand (or paw), you can help PDSA take care of these vulnerable pets by visiting their website right here.