MINES have been laid around Exmoor Zoo - not to deter intruders, but to promote awareness of the global land mine menace and a particular group of rats that are helping to remove them. Hero rats, trained to sniff out mines in countries left blighted by
MINES have been laid around Exmoor Zoo - not to deter intruders, but to promote awareness of the global land mine menace and a particular group of rats that are helping to remove them."Hero rats," trained to sniff out mines in countries left blighted by conflict, were brought into the local spotlight last year after the North Devon Gazette introduced readers to Jantry, the Gambian pouched rat at the zoo.On Wednesday of next week (May 28) the attraction at Bratton Fleming will be holding a special Hero Rat day to help raise awareness and let visitors have a little fun at the same time.Young "bomb disposal" experts will be able to see if their noses compare with Jantry's or any other hero rat, by taking part in a special Sniffer Trail - imitation land mines have been cunningly hidden and visitors will have to literally sniff them out!There will be prizes for the best nasal operatives, plus the chance to "Chat to a Rat" with Rattle Box theatre and some lucky visitors will even get to experience basic training at the Hero Rat Academy. The day has been sponsored by Supreme Petfoods, which has adopted all the rats at the zoo, plus McVities Jaffa Cakes."As a result of the Gazette's report, several hero rats have since been adopted by people in North Devon to help with their life-changing work," said Steve Eddy at the zoo."Bart Weejans of Belgian company Apopo, which trains the rats, has thanked the zoo and Gazette for helping to spread the word." It costs just £3.50 per month to sponsor a rat, but the work they do could prevent thousands of people being maimed or killed. In Africa and elsewhere, the trained animals are harnessed to a rail mounted over a metal grid while two handlers roll it over a suspected minefield. The rats, too light to set off the mines, stop and scratch at the ground when they recognise the scent of explosives and are rewarded with food for their efforts.Find out more at Exmoor Zoo next Wednesday.