Magawa the rat, who was awarded a gold medal for his heroism, is retiring from his job detecting land mines. In a five-year career, the rodent sniffed out 71 land mines and dozens more live munitions in Cambodia. But his handler says the seven-year-old African giant pouched rat is "slowing down" as he reaches old age, and she wants to "respect his needs." After three decades of war, there are thought to be about six million land mines in the Southeast Asian country. Overall, the trained rats have found about 500 anti-personnel mines and more than 350 unexploded bombs in Cambodia.
Class discussion: Are the mine-sniffing rodents heroes? Human beings have relied the keen senses of their animal companions for thousands of years. What have dogs been trained to sniff out just in the past year? Besides finding land mines, what dangerous tasks do animals perform for us? Land mines and unexploded bombs threaten more than 60 million people in 59 countries, and 164 nations have agreed to ban anti-personnel mines. Why have 32 countries – including the United States, Russia, China and India – rejected the treaty? Should we be responsible to clean up the unexploded weapons we’ve left behind?
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