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Rats to Scour Colombian Mine Fields December 2, 2011
Rat and trainer
“Sophie” being trained by officer and former canine handler Erick Guzman.
A platoon of Colombian bomb-sniffing rats is in its final phase of training to help the country recover from decades in which countless land mines have been laid in conflict with left-wing guerrillas.

Each year, land mines kill or injure hundreds of people across the country.

The lightweight rodents are believed unlikely to detonate the explosive devices as they sniff out the specific smells of metals used in manufacturing them.

The rats are also being trained to respond to voice commands that will guide them during their missions.

Government scientists have tried to train five generations of rats leading up to their deployment, scheduled for early next year.

The government says that mines have been placed in 31 of the country’s 32 provinces, mainly by FARC and other outlaw groups.

“Contrary to what you see in other countries that have signed the Mine Ban Treaty, mines continue to be planted in our country,” said Luisa Fernanda Mendez, the scientific director of the rat program.

Photo: Colombian Campaign Against Mines