Animal Internships Wiki

APOPO trains rats to detect mines and participates in tuberculosis research. The following info is copied from their website: APOPO


A rat school with a difference[]

The heart of APOPO lies in Morogoro, Tanzania. APOPO is hosted by Sokoine University of Agriculture, where APOPO has established its main administrative, training and research centre at the foot of the Uluguru Mountains.

A few kilometres outside the University's main campus, APOPO has established 24 hectares of training and test fields for the training of Mine Detection Rats. Through the support of the Tanzanian Peoples Defence Force, more than 1,500 landmines and unexploded ordinance, among other control objects, are buried in the training fields. The field is a mosaic of more than 1,000 demarcated training boxes (typically 100 square meters each).

In the vicinity of the minefield, at the University's isolation area, APOPO houses its tuberculosis research and training facility. Here the rats are trained on the detection of tuberculosis, and research is conducted toward the optimization of the detection system. Sample quality confirmation is done in the microscope laboratory.

At the central APOPO facilities at the SUA main Campus, the rats start their lives in APOPO's breeding kennels. The indoor facilities can house 55 breeding pairs in double-chambered breeding cages. APOPO also has more than 400 square meters of outdoor, concrete breeding kennels, where the rats' natural environment is imitated with about half a meter of soil, through which they can dig their tunnels and breeding nests.

After socialization, the young rats begin their training in one of the six pre-training rooms, with small training cages, where the animals learn odour discrimination. At a later stage they are brought either to the training field or to one of the advanced training and odour evaluation cages. APOPO has four training rooms with different configurations, where the rats can evaluate hundreds of odour samples on a daily basis.

Quality control of the samples and training environment is performed in the APOPO analytical chemistry laboratory, equipped with Gas Chromatography and Ion Mobility Spectrometry equipment.

Field-trained rats and those used for Remote Explosive Scent Tracing are housed in two separate indoor kennels and are given regular exercise using the outside playing kennels. Weekly visits by a veterinarian ensure the rats maintain their good health.

Administrative and financial management of APOPO, as well as the support for the operational projects is also centralized in Morogoro.


Rats in Action to clear gaza province[]

APOPO has been in Mozambique since 2003, engaged in the development of a low-cost and efficient mine detection methodology. The aim has been to facilitate the clearance of landmines and the reduction of landmine victims, while reducing the cost of these activities to a level where they can be affordable for the countries that need them, rather than countries having to rely on foreign aid or donor support to fund the necessary work.

Following the training and experience acquired while working with Menschen gegen Minen (MgM), and Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), the first group of MDRs were tested and licensed by the National Demining Institute (IND) and acknowledged as an alternative landmine and un-exploded ordnance (UXO) detection tool by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICDH)

Accreditation of the MDRs and their acknowledgement as an instrument for mine and UXO detection resulted in APOPO entering into operational agreements with other demining operators, with an aim to apply the methodology in real minefield situations. These agreements resulted in APOPO working with Accelerated Demining Programme (PAD) and Handicap International (HI) Demining Programme.

While working with these operational partners, APOPO had the advantage and opportunity to acquire experience on the use of other demining tools such as manual and mechanical.

It was on the basis of these experiences acquired from other demining operators, as well as studies undertaken by APOPO on the development of a combined tool methodology, that APOPO was confident that it could stand independently from other agencies. Since 2006 APOPO has been a fully operational mine action programme, which was tasked in 2008 as the sole operator for continuing the clearance of Gaza Province in Mozambique.

Mozambique mine history[]

Landmines were laid in Mozambique during two distinct phases of conflict:

  • Between 1964 and 1974, when large barrier and defensive minefields were laid during the war for independence;
  • Between 1977 and 1992, during the civil war between Renamo and Frelimo.

The result of these two phases of conflict left anti-personnel mines buried in all ten provinces of Mozambique, as well as many kilometres of roads being disrupted due to the presence of anti-vehicle mines.

Originally the level of contamination in Mozambique was unknown, although the impacts on some communities were serious, with high death and injury rates, and the destruction of social and economic infrastructure. Today, four northern provinces have been cleared, representing 51% of the total land requiring clearance. The remaining mined areas could possibly be cleared within five years (up to 2014) using the experience gained thus far.

In 2007 and 2008, a Baseline Assessment of the remaining suspected hazardous areas was conducted by the HALO Trust in six central and southern provinces. This considerably reduced the inconsistency of existing data and provided estimates of time and costs to address the remaining problem. The survey indicated that all six provinces are contaminated, with approximately 12,164,401 square metres of confirmed mined areas in 541 sites. In addition, there remain 33 known sites along roads. However, borders with neighbouring countries were not surveyed, and are also known to contain hazardous areas.

Gaza Province & APOPO clearance plan[]

Gaza Province is one of ten provinces in Mozambique. It is subdivided into 11 districts, nine of which have confirmed mined areas within them.

From the Baseline Survey, there remain 16 confirmed minefields and eight mined roads in the Gaza Province. Though new mined areas are still being reported, the Mine Free District Evaluation will ensure that all remaining known mined areas are included in the clearance plan, and that once APOPO has finished with a district no known mined areas will remain.

Confirmed mined areas in the Gaza Province

The APOPO mine-clearance programme is designed to clear all known remaining minefields in Gaza Province by 2014, in accordance with Mozambique’s mine-ban treaty extension request goal. The programme incorporates the District-by-District approach, ensuring that each district has undergone a ‘Mine-Free District Evaluation’ before being declared clear. The objective of this evaluation is to root out any remaining suspected area, or unexploded ordnance, in each district where clearance operations took place. It aims to verify and document that all communities, from the lowest level, in all districts, are confident to state that there are no known remaining areas containing landmines.

The APOPO mine-clearance programme utilises Mine Detection Rats (MDR) in conjunction with Ground Preparation Vehicles (GPV) and Manual Deminers.

The armoured GPVs clear vegetation from the area, allowing the Manual Deminers to clear safe lanes and prepare boxed areas for the MDRs to search.

The indications from the MDRs are then followed up by Manual Deminers, who will also remove and neutralize the mines.

All areas initially undergo an extensive Non-technical Survey, which leads to either the release of land, or further Technical Surveys. This ensures efficient use of funds and a coordinated allocation of resources.

After deployment of assets to a task, the survey team continues work on the Mine-Free District Evaluation.

APOPO clearance plan:

Year planned clearance District
# areas m2
2008 7 40,374 Macia
100,000 Guija
2009 1 400,000 Guija
3 15,581 Massingir
1 150,236 Chokwe
2 69,025 Chibuto
2 17,339 Chibuto Rds
750,000 Mabalane
2011 1 500,000 Mabalane
1 45,290 Chicualacuale Rds
1 196,000 Massangena Rds
2012 2 755,000 Chigubo Rds
2013 2 750,000 Chigubo Rds

Links to Mozambique mine action and useful knowledge centres[]

National Institute of Demining, Mozambique
Geneva International Centre for Demining
International Campaign to Ban Landmines
United Nations Mine Action Service
The International Test and Evaluation Programme

Students, Volunteers and academic sabbaticals[]

  • Please check their website for more up-to-date information on job vacancies.

Socio economic impact of landmine detection[]

Study and develop models to map the social and economic returns and benefits of APOPO's demining activities. Expected duration: 6-8 months
Profile: Masters level or above in development economics or related fields

Socio economic impact of TB diagnosis[]

Study and develop models to map the potential social and economic returns and benefits of APOPO's TB diagnostic activities.

Expected duration: 6-8 months
Profile: Masters level or above in health economics or related fields

Animal Welfare[]

Identify indicators and develop measures for the improvement of the physiological and psychological well-being of the Cricetomys in APOPO's training and research program.
Expected duration: 4 months - 4 years, long term commitment preferred
Profile: Masters level or above in Animal welfare or related fields

Etogram of Cricetomys[]

Identify Cricetomys typical behaviours and use this information to improve training and breeding procedures at APOPO.
Expected duration: 4 months - 4 years, long term commitment preferred
Profile: Masters level or above in Ethology or related fields


Organize and analyse performance data for ongoing training activities and specific experiments.
Expected duration: Long term commitment preferred
Profile: Masters level or above in (Bio)-statistics or related fields

Bio Medical Researcher[]

Oversee Research and Development activities in the APOPO Tuberculosis detection program;
Expected duration: Long term commitment preferred
Profile: Phd or Medical degree

Behavioural researcher[]

Study the impact of early neurological stimulation on the subsequent performance of the Cricetomys in scent detection
Expected duration: 1 year - 4 years
Profile: Masters level or above in behavioural sciences

Grant co-ordinator[]

Asses research funding opportunities, write grant proposal and administer funded projects
Expected duration: 1 year - 4 years
Profile: Masters level or above with substantial experience in obtaining and managing extramural funds

Institutional collaborations[]

Research and implementing institutions in our field of work are invited to seek research collaborations or partnerships.