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   Undertoad  Tuesday Oct 18 05:38 PM

10/18/2005: Mine fishing with a rat



Elspode suggests this item, the full caption:

A mine detecting Gambian giant pouch rat works an area in a mine field near Vilancoulos in southern Mozambique, 450 km north east of the capital Maputo, in this November 2004 file photo. The rats are trained from an early age to associate the scent of explosives with a food reward and indicate the suspected presence of explosives by grooming and scratching the earth. Clearing the many minefields, which are a result of the country's twenty year civil war, is funded by international and Mozambican Non Government Organisations and the government.

What is left unsaid is how often the scratching rat sets off the mine. Sad. Clearly they have developed this system to let the distant (and protective-suited) humans to stand a few yards away while the rat does his business.



BigV  Tuesday Oct 18 06:25 PM

I feel sorry for the rats that get blown up too. But I'd rather see 1000 rats blown up than one kid or one farmer.

I read a little. They're not endangered, in some areas they're invasive pests (Key West). From the looks of the picture, they're on a short lead on a fixed line. I wonder if they use the line to verify a strip of ground, then they move the rig, repeating the process.

I don't think this is any more or less humane than harvesting chickens for food. Plus, I imagine the loss to mines is an undesirable outcome for the rat handlers as well, considering the training put into them.



Trilby  Tuesday Oct 18 07:44 PM

I thought it would be a cold day in hell when I felt sorry for a rat, but...I do feel sorry for them. What a nasty surprise.



Carbonated_Brains  Tuesday Oct 18 07:46 PM

I wouldn't worry about it.

Most, if not all mines are designed with a force trigger of at least a few pounds to guard AGAINST rats and critters setting them off.

Your minefield in the jungle isn't much good if, after a week, you have no mines and 400 blown up squirrels.



Griff  Tuesday Oct 18 07:47 PM

Very messy business but yah, I don't want some kid to find it.



richlevy  Tuesday Oct 18 11:20 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Undertoad
The rats are trained from an early age to associate the scent of explosives with a food reward.
Wow, and I thought Atkins was tough.


zippyt  Wednesday Oct 19 12:38 AM

Top of the food chain Baby !!!



zippyt  Wednesday Oct 19 12:47 AM

All kidding aside this is a good and porpusfull use for vermin , cheap mine detecters , if they DO get blown up it serves a two fold purpose of getting rid of a dangerous mine and a dangerous critter , and there are PLENTY more where they came from !!!



xoxoxoBruce  Wednesday Oct 19 01:15 AM

I wonder if they all get blown up eventually?
I don't care....but I wonder.
Protective clothing or not, those guys look awful close. It must be set up for the picture. They would be crazy to work that close.



zippyt  Wednesday Oct 19 01:37 AM

I used to have a budy in the EOD ( explosive ordinance Desposal ) unit , he said they were more worried about the small stuff ( gernades , bounceing bettys mines , etc,,,) becouse they would maim you , the BIG stuff ( 500 lb'ers and the sort ) well , if'n they went BOOM you were just a "lingering PINK mist "



Lizsun  Wednesday Oct 19 07:42 AM

One more way that we get ourselves into a bind by shrot-term thinking.
Gosh if just one guy in charge had thought about what if we win and my grandkid moves there . . . his kids might walk across that field one day.

ME-Liz
http://lettingmebe.blogspot.com



smithgr  Wednesday Oct 19 08:18 AM

Evidently the photographer isn't concerned that the rat will set off the mine. As others have mentioned, landmines usually take several pounds of pressure to trigger them. I would be surprized if many rats were killed at all. They probably use them because they are intelligent but smaller than dogs,which ARE big enough to set off mines.

I recall reading a journalist's account (sorry, can't attribute) of seeing a Vietnamese child throwing a stick for his dog in a field and then walking to the dog and repeating the process. The journalist thought it was just a kid playing with his dog until he realized that the kid was using the dog to clear a safe path through a mine field. Wow...talk about an alternate reality.



capnhowdy  Wednesday Oct 19 08:49 AM

I saw something on Animal Planet (I think) a few nights ago on this same topic. The handlers are assigned a rat and raise it, feed it cherish it, etc. to form a lifelong bond. Sort of like a miniatureized version of the Mahout. I don't recall the statistics on how many people are killed each year by mines, but I do know that it was shocking.
They work the rats on long lines and leashes in a grid type pattern.
Another reason to be glad to live in America.



magilla  Wednesday Oct 19 08:52 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Undertoad
What is left unsaid is how often the scratching rat sets off the mine. Sad. Clearly they have developed this system to let the distant (and protective-suited) humans to stand a few yards away while the rat does his business.
Quite a few years ago I helped a sightless friend of mine prepare a term paper on the rights of humans to use animals in various circumstances. She had many, many examples, the most obvious one being her guide dog. She also had reports of Russians in World War II training dogs to associate the underside of German tanks with food. They would have explosives strapped to their backs, and when released on the battlefield they would run under the tanks and BOOM. Finally, she had documents from Vietnam describing the use of dogs to detect boobytraps. The score on that one was: Traps detected: thousands. Dogs injured/killed: None.

It is certainly not in the interests of the trainers to treat the rats as expendable. They represent a considerable expense in terms of time and effort. I bet the rats don't suffer a high mortality rate.

Have a look at

http://www.aeaf.org/papers/1997-11-ian-feinhandler.htm

Chris


wolf  Wednesday Oct 19 02:25 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by capnhowdy
Another reason to be glad to live in America.
We got all the ones off the beaches in Hawaii, right?


capnhowdy  Wednesday Oct 19 05:08 PM

Hawaii? I dunno... We destroyed 13,000 from Johnston Island, which is 800 miles from Hawaii but we still have nearly 90,000 more stockpiled in 4 different states. All these were in storage and not planted as far as I know. Did I miss something?



Carbonated_Brains  Wednesday Oct 19 09:57 PM

One of the main reasons they use Gambian rats isn't their smarts, it's their stupidity. They don't develop the same Pavlovian tricks that dogs do.

Over time, an explosive-sniffing dog will learn that finding a spot on the ground will get it a bite of food, and the rate of false positives goes up like crazy. Every dog has to be retired after a fairly short time. Similar things happen with drug dogs at the airport, although vastly more money goes into training them.

One of the more promising technologies for finding mines is a genetically engineered flower that will grow a different colour in the presence of the volatile organic compounds given off by explosives.

You airdrop ten thousand seeds, wait a week, and over each mine is a big red flower, in a sea of yellow ones.



wolf  Thursday Oct 20 02:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by capnhowdy
Hawaii? I dunno... We destroyed 13,000 from Johnston Island, which is 800 miles from Hawaii but we still have nearly 90,000 more stockpiled in 4 different states. All these were in storage and not planted as far as I know. Did I miss something?
My mother was married at Hickam AFB and lived on Oahu in off-base housing. My father was assigned to a group that sampled radioactive clouds, which was pretty big deal stuff in the 1950s. At that time there were beaches that were still restricted because of leftover WWII landmines.


Sundae  Thursday Oct 20 11:04 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carbonated_Brains
Your minefield in the jungle isn't much good if, after a week, you have no mines and 400 blown up squirrels.
I don't know why I found this so funny.......
but I really laughed when I read it.

Perhaps the image of a 1950s housewife standing in front of her cupboards with a puzzled expression on her face,

"Sorry honey, looks like its squirrels again!"


barefoot serpent  Friday Oct 28 02:39 PM

minefield practical jokes



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