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Source: Brett Cooper, bjcooper@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Natalie Blair, 785-826-2642, nblair@k-state.edu

Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011

FAMILY OF 'CATS HOPES TO ADOPT RAT TO SNIFF OUT TUBERCULOSIS, LANDMINES

SALINA -- It sounds a bit like "Stuart Little" with a twist. But this story isn't fiction.

A group of Wildcats at Kansas State University at Salina hope to raise enough money to sponsor a HeroRAT, an African giant pouched rat trained to sniff out tuberculosis or landmines in Tanzania and Mozambique.

Brett Cooper, senior in technology management, Salina, is the Students In Free Enterprise member in charge of the event.

"HeroRATs have been really effective at sniffing out tuberculosis and landmines," he said. "Each rat is trained for only one of those jobs, so the program needs more rats than they currently have."

Cooper also said that rats aren't trained kamikazes.

"Because they're so light, they won't trigger the landmine. They can go into the field, detect the threat, and then a team goes in to clear the land."

In 2009 the HeroRATs found and neutralized 169 mines, 181 unexploded ordinance and 3,871 small arms and ammunition. They also identified 620 cases of tuberculosis that would have otherwise gone undetected, and helped prevent more than 9,000 transmissions of the disease, according to the program's website.

"They are trained to detect tuberculosis in blood samples, and they're more time efficient than a human is," Cooper said.

Full training of a HeroRAT costs approximately $7,350.

More information about the HeroRAT program is available at http://www.herorat.org.