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Pit, only two and with just one eye, needed only 11 minutes before he detected a deadly mine buried in a Cambodian field, work that humans with metal detectors could have taken up to five days to investigate. But Pit is not human. He is part of a team of elite rats, imported from Africa, that Cambodia is training to sniff out landmines that still dot the countryside after decades of conflict.
"Under a clear sky, he would have been quicker," said Hul Sokheng, a veteran Cambodian deminer, who oversees training of 12 handlers on how to work with 15 large rats to clear Cambodia's farmland and rural villages of bombs.
"These are life-saving rats," he said under rainy skies. Their work could prove vital in a country where unexploded devices, including mines and unexploded shells, have killed nearly 20,000 Cambodians and wounded about 44,000 since 1979, according to the Cambodian government.
Cambodia is still littered with landmines after emerging from decades of war, including the 1970s Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields" genocide, leaving it with one of the world's highest disability rates.