Project trains rats to rescue earthquake victims

Researchers at the nonprofit APOPO have been working to train mice that can enter small spaces to find victims buried in rubble after earthquakes. In an official communiqué, the project leader, Donna Kean, expressed hope with the first results. For Kean, rodents are perfect rescue animals for this kind of situation, as they are extremely agile and great for moving around in all sorts of different environments.

Also, because they are small and flexible, they would be the perfect creatures to work with in search and rescue in earthquake situations. rat training In an article published by People, Kean explained that she trained seven mice to use backpacks and navigate a series of simulated debris. Then, the rodents would have to return to base when they hear a beep emitted by the team. The accessories carried by the animals will be useful tools in the rescue process. It was through the small bags that the scientists were able to introduce microphones, video equipment and location trackers — which will be used to identify victims and facilitate the removal of rubble. When one of the mice finds someone trapped by the earthquake, human rescuers will be able to communicate with the survivor and spring into action.

During the interview, the researcher also responded to questions about the bad reputation that rats have among humans. “There is a misconception that they are dirty and unsanitary. They are well taken care of by our staff and they are also sociable animals,” Kean said.

Future of Testing

At first, Donna Kean claimed to have been interested in the behavior of primates, but found herself drawn to the intelligence and learning ability of rats. Currently, about 170 rodents are being trained by researchers to perform a wide range of tasks — including detecting landmines and sniffing out disease. It took the team of seven mice trained by Kean just two weeks to understand which missions they would need to fulfill. The trend is that new tests with earthquake rescue rats will be conducted. Although they only underwent a single navigation exercise on simulated wreckage, the researchers plan to take the specimens to Turkey, a region prone to earthquakes. APOPO has developed a partnership with a search and rescue team in the Middle East country and the tendency is for rats to start appearing in real situations. According to studies, earthquake survivors can survive from a few days to weeks in rubble, depending on how much air they have and whether they can get water.

If Kean’s rats prove to be effective, the program would become revolutionary in terms of search and rescue techniques. Even though they haven’t gotten many answers so far, scientists have been excited about the promising results seen so far and the little rodents seem to be almost ready to become true heroes.



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