HeroRAT Health and Welfare

APOPO has worked alongside animals to save lives for 25 years. African giant pouched rats, nicknamed HeroRATs, are speeding up the detection of landmines and tuberculosis as part of an integrated approach. Allowing people to get their lives and livelihoods back on track as fast as possible.

Papa Wemba searches the minefield in Ponte Filomena, Angola
HeroRAT Papa Wemba searches an area the size of a tennis court in under 20 minutes. Ponte Filomena, Angola

To date, APOPO has discovered and detonated over 155,000 landmines and other explosive remains of war, returned over 82 million square meters (equal to 11,500 soccer fields) of safe land to communities, and liberated over 1.8 million people from crippling injury or death. TB detection rats, on the other hand, have screened 884,103 sputum samples, assisting in the discovery of 26,378 additional TB patients who were previously overlooked by conventional TB screening at local clinics. 265,606 possible TB infections were prevented by using APOPO’s working animals to identify more TB cases and link them to treatment.

No one understands our rats more than we do and their health and welfare are a top priority! Each of our rats is considered a highly valuable asset, making animal welfare our top priority. They are extremely well cared for, receiving an excellent diet, regular exercise, appropriate veterinary treatment, a shelter, and loving attention from our expert handlers.

Balanced diet

The HeroRATs enjoy a well-balanced diet of fresh grains, maize, nuts, vegetables, fruits, dried fish, and rat chow pellets. In the wild these nocturnal rodents would go out at night, forage and dig for food and stuff their famous cheek pouches then head home and stash the food so they can eat it slowly throughout the day.

Regular playtime

A HeroRAT sized running wheel for Barbara

The HeroRATs enjoy regular scheduled play and exercise time throughout the week. APOPO has several outdoor enclosures where the rats can play and become accustomed to being outside. The large shaded play enclosures are constructed and outfitted with a variety of enrichments to mimic the rats’ natural habitat, such as elevated platforms with ramps, climbing branches with leaves, tires, running wheels, tunnels, natural mulch and earth to dig in, and plenty of space to run around.

Veterinary care

Our HeroRATs receive routine health exams to ensure that they are disease-free and healthy. Daily observations of individual animals, weekly health reports, and regular parasite prevention medications are all part of routine care. To protect the landmine detection rats from the harmful rays of the sun, sunscreen is applied to their ears and tails, and training or outdoor operations take place in the cool, early hours of the morning after daybreak.


Sleeping HeroRATs © James-Oatway

The rats in training share kennels with their siblings. The kennels are cleaned every couple of days, and the rats have their own carers who ensure they are loved, fed, have access to clean drinking water, and enjoy their spacious living quarters. The HeroRATs, like other rats, enjoy the attention, including being petted and carried around to make them feel comfortable and trusting of us. Our trained handlers are mindful to give them gentle treatment and be respectful in their interactions with the HeroRATs.

Give a HeroRAT a clean bill of health!