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.
Basically, 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.
But 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.