In 1995, Bart Weetjens became interested in the anti-personnel mine situation in Africa. With the support of the University of Antwerp in Belgium, he started to train rats to detect explosives in an old laboratory. In order to train rats in the field, he also set up a training center in Morogoro, Tanzania. The program uses primarily giant rats (Cricetomys) due to their longevity (eight year life span) and their abundance in Africa.
It costs $3,000 to $5,000 to train a single rat, which is much less than the cost of training of a detection dog. Each rodent is tested every six months in order to stay accredited. In addition to saving lives and making mined areas safe again, Bart Weejens’ initiative creates jobs in economically underdeveloped areas. His work is also showing surprising promise for the future, as the rats have shown that they are able to detect certain diseases such as tuberculosis.