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An Army of Giant African Pouched Rats Are Clearing Mozambique’s Minefields

Land mines, unexploded artillery shells and cluster munitions are every bit as effective during peacetime as they are during war. An estimated 72 countries around the world are still affected by them, and their proliferation throughout former war-torn countries continues to reaphorrific consequences on rural communities from South East Asia to Angola.

“The socio-economic impact of land mines and unexploded munitions are huge. These things massively block economic development, and poor people in remote areas are continuing to suffer because of them,” says Tekimiti Gilbert, head of mine action for the de-mining NGOApopo.

“The knowledge of a single mine in the area is enough to stop locals using that land out of fear. Most of these communities survive on subsistence farming. They’re dependent on that land for agriculture, animals, and forestry—even getting firewood for their homes. And the further you move out of cities, the greater the land mine problem becomes.”

Fortuitously, Belgian-born Zen Buddhist and founder of Apopo, Bart Weetjens, has pioneered a new approach to detecting and eradicating land mines; he’s using rats—hulking, cat-sized rats who’ll go to insane lengths for a slice of avocado. And who, along with other de-mining NGOs and the British Government, are pushing to make Mozambique a mine-free country by late 2014.

“Some people are thinking of this idea as crazy,” he laughs in a heavy Belgian accent. “But for me, connecting the dots between rats and mine action was an alignment of the constellations.”



Displayed in the Saint-Étienne church in France is the figure of René de Chalon, Prince of Orange. The prince died at the young age of 25 during the siege of Saint-Dizier in 1544.

Rather then memorialize him in the standard hero form, his wife requested (or René himself requested, or possibly both) that he be shown as “not a standard figure but a life-size skeleton with strips of dried skin flapping over a hollow carcass, whose right hand clutches at the empty rib cage while the left hand holds high his heart in a grand gesture.” (Source)

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