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Sunday, January 10, 2021


 by Tricia Knoll

HeroRAT Magawa has been awarded the PDSA (The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals) Gold Medal for life-saving bravery. Magawa is based in Cambodia and supports APOPO's efforts to rid Cambodia of the deadly legacy of landmines. Magawa is an African giant pouched rat that was born in Tanzania in November 2014. He grew up at APOPO's Training and Research center in Tanzania where he learned how to detect the smell of explosives using his nose. Under the loving guidance of his human rat trainer,s he fully completed his training in 9 months and began to prepare to leave for the field. Magawa moved to Siem Reap in Cambodia in 2016 where he met his new handler Malen and began his successful career. To date he has found 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance, making him APOPO’s most successful HeroRAT. Over the past 4 years he has helped clear over 141,000 square metres of land, allowing local communities to live, work and play without fear of losing life or limb. (APOPO is an acronym from Dutch which stands for "Anti-Persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling", or in English, Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development.)

wears a gold medal around his neck. 
Plain gray hero rat trained to stand up
on his back feet. He smells landmines;
more than sixty pieces of unexploded mayhem
in Cambodia. He alerts and gets banana. 
This acknowledgement comes grudgingly
from this woman with a rat trap in her garage
who has smelled rat urine on the lid of a steamer
in her pantry, who wiped up weeks of rat shit
under an antique cherry sideboard. Who when 
danger looms flinches from dream rodents
that scurry where walls meets floors. 
Today you asked me to find one reason for hope. 
You rescue orchids in discarded pots and coax
them into bloom. What I offer you after insurrection
and death in the Capitol is this: I give one rat
his due. 

Tricia Knoll recently spent more time watching events unfold in the Capitol than she did binge watching The Queen's Gambit. She is a Vermont poet looking forward to introducing a new collection of poetry this spring called Checkered Mates.