Man's New Best Friend: Rats Ferret Out Land Mines, TB
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2008 3:00 PM CST
In Mozambique, special squads of raccoon-size rats are sniffing out lethal explosive devices buried across the countryside, remnants of the country's anticolonial and civil wars of the last century.   (Shutter Stock)
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(Newser) – Move over, Rover: Man has a new best friend that is helping to combat two scourges plaguing the developing world. Rats, normally reviled as filthy vermin, are sniffing out land mines and detecting tuberculosis bacteria. "Rats are usually considered pests or enemies of humanity,” said one Mozambican handler, but they’re “helping my country escape the shadow of death.”

The raccoon-sized rodents, which are too light to trip explosives, are cheaper than dogs, less emotionally attached, and are far less susceptible to disease, the Boston Globe reports. In labs, rats evaluate potentially infected saliva samples quicker than technicians. They’re also “really nice creatures” to boot, said the developer of both programs. “They are organized, sensitive, sociable, and smart.”