Christophe Cox, co-founder and CEO of APOPO

Christophe 20th anniversary 2-1

Christophe Cox—co-founder and CEO of APOPO, a Tanzania-based nonprofit organization that trains African giant pouched rats to detect landmines and to detect tuberculosis—recounts the genesis of the organization, when co-founder Bart Weetjens began contemplating whether the rodents he kept as pets could be taught to find landmines, and drafted his friend, Cox, to help explore and realize this vision.

Cox outlines some of the new countries APOPO is expanding its landmine-detecting operations to—Columbia being the newest—while noting those where the organization continues those efforts, including Cambodia, Angola, and Zimbabwe. Cox allows that someone newly exposed to APOPO could be excused for finding the mission—training rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis—to sound a bit improbable at first blush. He notes that the institution has grown accustomed to skepticism over the years—APOPO is now celebrating its 20th anniversary, and has always forged ahead, undeterred bynaysayers. Cox describes the training process the rats undergo to learn to detect landmines within ever-expanding parcels of land, working closely with their handlers, pointing out that APOPO breeds the rats in-house that then receive this tutelage. The rats have detected over 100,000 landmines, and Cox says not a single rat has detonated a landmine or otherwise died in the performance of the detection duties. He also explains how the rats that detect tuberculosis approach that task—multiple rats sniffing samples that have tested negative—and the so-called HeroRats have identified more than 12,000 tuberculosis infections that were missed by clinics; that is, by conventional medical means to diagnose the disease. (https://www.apopo.org/en, https://www.facebook.com/heroRAT/)

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COMEDY CORNER: Dana Gould’s “Chimps, Bears & JFK” (http://www.danagould.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” Lauris Vidal’s version of “Queen Bee,” Booker T’s version of “Get Behind The Mule,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Black Sabbath’s “Rat Salad”

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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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