Friday, 4 March 2011

Bart Weetjens: How I taught rats to sniff out land mines

Bart Weetjens in his presentation explained that rats are magnificent creatures and are able to save human lives. Furthermore he explained the whole process of the training. The training starts with a basic clicking method as any other animal training. Once the rat learns that one click means food then he is taught to stick his nose for five seconds in the target smell. After learning this skill the rat is placed into a cage with several hidden target holes. With successful results the rat is taught to walk on a leash and find smell targets. The last phase is the test of finding real land mines. When they past this test the rat gets an international licence of ability finding land mines. The test is the same as for land mine sniffing dogs, but there is on difference which is that rat training is cheaper than dog training. Tuberculosis is one of the most critical illnesses in Africa last year almost 1.9 million people died from Tuberculosis. Rats are also trained to recognize sample contaminated with a virus of TBC. An ordinary laboratory test with a microscope is able to test 40 samples per day; where as the trained rat can recognize the same amount of samples in 7 minutes. In a one day the trained rat can recognize 1600 samples. With this procedure they are able to increase the time of revealing diseases faster and save people’s lives. Furthermore, the rats have a potential of training to detect environmental pollutions in soil, elicit goods in containers, detect earthquake survivors etc. Bart Weetjens and his team want to standardize rat training. Using rats for sniffing land mines and illness samples is already working successfully and it has a potential to be used more frequently for saving people’s lives.

This is another example of that our world is magnificent. People usually think that rats are pest animals and they are disgusted of them. Bart Weetjens with his presentation had simply refuted the idea that rats are pest animals. After seeing his presentation I have completely changed my point of view at rats. Rats can be used for useful things like dogs. Surprisingly the training is cheaper than the training of dogs. If we will use the rats smelling ability to recognize contaminated disease samples and landmines we can save lot of time and people’s lives. Like Bart Weetjens illustrated with the 40 analyzed samples by microscope in one day; however, rats can recognize the same amount of samples in 7 minutes. Furthermore, the future of using rats as rescue factor in earthquake affected areas is make a logical explanation because rats are small and they can rake through soil to find survivors and signal their location. Isn’t it amazing?

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