When you think of rats you may think of pesky little creatures or scientific experiments, but have you ever thought that we could train them save our lives? Bart Weetjens shows us just how helpful rats can be.

Why you should listen

In this talk, Weetjens talks about his interesting approach to sniffing out land mines, rats. The species of rats he uses is the African giant pouched rat. These rats are trained with the same extensive test used for canines used to sniff out land mines. He calls these trained rats “HeroRats!”

Who is he

Bart Weetjens is a Dutch product designer who works with locals in Morogoro, Tanzania to do something very interesting, train rats to sniff out land mines! Weetjen is now working on using an alike approach to diagnose tuberculosis.

Discussion Questions

  1. How did Weetjens find himself pursuing the project of land mine and tuberculosis detections
  2. Why rats? Why use rats to sniff out land mines rather than other animals?
  3. What technique was used to train these rats to sniff out land mines
  4. How many people are at risk of infection per one person missed by microscopy?
  5. How was technology standardized, as mentioned by Weetjens? What was their new protoype?
  6. Do you agree or disagree with placing rats in such dangerous environments in order to help out humanity?

How I taught rats to sniff out land mines with Bart Weetjens


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