Hero Rats! Giant rats! Temple rats!

All God’s critters have a a place in the choir! PBS Frontline has a story in the archives about “Hero Rats,” a program that basically trains and uses Gambian Pouched Rats (or African Giant Pouched Rats) to disarm landmines in Africa.

herorat.jpgBasically, the rat knows how to sniff them out, and is light enough to locate a land mine without setting it off. Then, a human enters the picture and disables the land mine. The accompanying video is really great; go check it out.

giantrat.jpgBut then, just today, there’s an article in the Chicago Tribune about a brand new species of giant rat discovered in an Indonesian jungle(!). Man, I wish I could go there. A tiny type of possum was also discovered, and both animals are thought to be new to science.

Finally, in Deshnoke, India, exists a temple that was constructed as a tribute to the rat goddess, Karni Mata. An estimated 20,000 rats run freely throughout the temple, and their presence is celebrated. People visit the temple in order to pay homage to the rats, who are considered to be human souls reborn. It is considered to be good luck if, while you are visiting, a rat runs across your feet. Check out the video.

It just doesn’t get any better than this. I am a proud advocate of rats. Domestic ones make wonderful pets, particularly females, and especially two together if possible. They are friendly, sociable and intelligent, and contrary to popular belief, are incredibly clean creatures. Clearly, rats have much to offer humanity. Perhaps if Americans understood a little more about our fellow rodents, we could find creative ways to enlist their help as well.

Update: Here is an interview with the founder of the Hero Rats program in Africa.  It’s worth reading.

5 Responses to “Hero Rats! Giant rats! Temple rats!”

  1. Andria Says:

    I agree with your support of rats. However, it is true that humans have a genuine reason to dislike rats: rats and pests that rats harbor have killed approximately 10 million people in the last century alone. On the flip side, rats have also saved approximately 10 million humans as well, because they are used for so many scientific studies that benefit human health.

    Here is a link to an article from the New York Times that gives more information about how interesting rats really are: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/24/science/24angi.html

  2. Tom Ryberg Says:

    On the flip side, rats have also saved approximately 10 million humans as well, because they are used for so many scientific studies that benefit human health.

    True…with their deaths! :(

    Well, maybe we Westerners will be able to find alternate ways of using rats to benefit other areas of society. Like massage, for example…maybe giant rats could be trained on how to massage people by walking on their backs in particular rhythms!

    Sky’s the limit…

  3. Lenora Says:

    Hi, I know I’m commenting a month late, but I’m new to this blog. My son, 10, has two domesticated male rats. They really are lovely pets. They are largely self-sufficient, but they do enjoy gentle play, especially petting. They don’t even try to run away when he holds them, but will perch on his shoulder.

  4. Tom Ryberg Says:

    Hi Lenora,
    Thanks for dropping by! My wife and I had two domesticated females, and I couldn’t agree with you more–they’re really great pets. And it’s good to have them in pairs, since they are social critters.

    You should show your son the video about the “Hero Rats” in Africa! That really strikes me as an awesome and creative approach to the problem of landmines.


  5. Tom Ryberg Says:

    PS – As of a couple months ago, we’ve now got two domesticated males: Leo and Reinaldo. They’re brown and quite friendly (and still growing!).

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