[APOPOs Training Center, situated on Sokoine Univeristy of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania, was established in 2000 to accommodate training and testing of mine detection rats in near-to-real conditions. The location came out of collaboration with the Department of Biology at the University of Antwerp (UA), which had a long-held cooperation with SUA concerning rodent research. The Centers position in East Africa enhances engagement with Sub-Saharan Africa stakeholders and supports APOPOs mission to build local capacity and foster economic development.
The training facilities at SUA comprise 24 hectares of test minefields with over 1,500 deactivated buried landmines. Logistical support for the extensive simulated minefield was achieved through collaboration with the Tanzanian Peoples Defense Force (TPDF). The nearby headquarters houses research and training rooms, laboratory and sample preparation areas, kennels, outdoor play and breeding enclosures, a data processing room and office space. The Center trains indigenous rats as a solution for nearby countries affected by landmines. Today, APOPO breeds and trains all of the HeroRATs at the headquarters and training field, and then deploys them to out-of-country programs for operational work.
Today, APOPO breeds and trains all of its HeroRATs at our Tanzanian headquarters, which are then deployed to our in-country programs as needed. Apart from training, APOPO carries out research to optimize the training process. This is mainly behavioural research which adresses training issues, but also analytical chemistry which supports the olfactory component of the detection process. APOPO has been a leading research group in the field of animal detection, many of which also applies to dog training. Other research is done to optimize breeding conditions and learn more about the ecology of the Giant African Pouched Rat]. – APOPO
Photos: MDR (Mine detection rats) learn to look for mines. (Photo by Alvaro Laiz/APOPO's HeroRATs