11 - APOPO

Training rats to save lives

HQ Location: Tanzania 

In the popular imagination, the link between rats and human well-being is a negative one, shaped by fears of disease. In the hands of APOPO, however, the equation has been reversed. Based in Morogoro, the humanitarian organization has spent the last 15 years honing its unique approach to training rats as mine detectors, and exported this ‘technology,’ despite initial skepticism, to four countries in Africa and South East Asia. Cheaper, quicker and lighter than conventional de-mining methods, APOPO’s African Giant Pouched Rats – endemic to sub-Saharan Africa – have helped return more than 6 million square meters of suspected minefields to local populations in Mozambique alone.

The organization has also continued to innovate, diversifying into the field of public health by training the same ‘HeroRATs’ to detect tuberculosis in human sputum samples – a faster, more accurate diagnostic method capable of screening thousands of patients every month.

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Photo © Xavier Rossi/Apopo

The Top 100 NGOs 2013.


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  • avatar
    Paul Pardoe February 25 2013, 23:28

    Poor rats paying for our mess still end justifies the means. Love you guys

  • avatar pro
    The Global Journal February 25 2013, 23:29


  • avatar
    James Pursey September 3 2013, 12:31

    Dear Paul,

    Thank you very much for your comment. In fact our rats are very well cared for and are never harmed in their work. They are given regular veterinary check-ups and play-time and actually live quite a few years longer with us than they do in the wild. For more information on this please visit our website. Best regards, James

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