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Colombian Police Train Rats to Find Mines

April 21, 2006

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Watch out Fido, your days on the force may be numbered. Police in Colombia are training Lola and Espejo, two whiskered, red-eyed rats, to sniff out bombs and land mines.

The rodents are part of an experimental six-rat squadron that police are preparing for dangerous missions to defuse the more than 100,000 land mines that litter Colombia’s countryside after four decades of war between the government and leftist rebels.

Unlike dogs, rats weighing less than half a pound each and ``don’t trigger any explosions when they walk on a mine,″ said Col. Javier Cifuentes, director of the Sibate police academy, where basic training is taking place.

To earn their stripes, the rats have spent the past year undergoing a daily training regimen in which they are placed in a maze with C-4 explosives and other bomb-making materials. When they detect the target, they’re rewarded with a cracker.

Trainers estimate it could be six months before the rats are pressed into active duty.

Cifuentes said he believes Colombia is the first country to use rats to conduct police work, though larger rodents are being employed for similar purposes in Sudan, he said.

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