U.S. funding anti-trafficking squad of giant rats for Tanzania

U.S. funding anti-trafficking squad of giant rats for Tanzania
National sensor system for Tanzania, courtesy of Uncle Sam. (Image: Screen grab of BBC Earth video, YouTube)

[Ed. – Because of course.  Shhh.  Stop that.  Don’t be silly.]

The US government will fund the training of a team of giant rats to combat illegal wildlife trafficking in Africa.

An elite group of African giant pouched rats will be used at ports, initially in Tanzania, to detect illegal shipments of pangolins – the world’s most trafficked animal, which has been pushed towards extinction due to the trade in its scales and skins – as well as hardwood timber.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service is spending $100,000 on a pilot project that will train rats to detect the illegal items and learn to communicate this to their human handlers. The rats, which can grow up to 3ft long, have poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell. They have pouched cheeks, much like a hamster, which give the species its name.

African giant pouched rats have previously been attached to leashes and used to detect mines and tuberculosis.

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