African Giant Pouched Rats Learn to Diagnose Deadly Disease
Have you ever heard of the African giant pouched rat? It’s about twice the size of a gerbil and not nearly as cute.
The African giant pouched rat, Cricetomys gambianus, is also known as the Gambian giant pouched rat. It is endemic to all of sub-Sahara and Africa. Adult rats grow to over two feet in length and weigh three and a half to four pounds. African pouched rats can live up to eight years in captivity and are docile and friendly to humans.
These rats have very poor vision but an incredibly keen sense of smell. For the last several years, the non-profit organization APOPO has been training the rats to detect buried land mines around the world.
The Rats Are Clicker-Trained for Their Latest Assignment
APOPO’s latest undertaking is training African giant pouched rats in Tanzania to detect tuberculosis in humans, a disease that kills over 1.4 million people each year and is a leading cause of death in Africa.