Conditioned Rats are Defusing Landmines

     A non-profit organization in Belgium trains African giant pouched rats to sniff out landmines. The conditioned rats have sniffed out landmines in countries ranging from Cambodia to Zimbabwe. The intelligent rodents weigh about nine pounds when fully grown and can also be trained to sniff out blood samples that are positive for tuberculosis. At their full size of nine pounds, the rats are still too small to trigger the landmines, so their size, intelligence, sense of smell, and trainability make them perfect for the job of detecting landmines.

    The rats are trained using both classical and operant conditioning. At about ten weeks of age, classical conditioning begins and a handler offers the rats food while simultaneously activating a clicker. The rats associate the clicking with food then move on to the next phase of training. Next, the rats are exposed to tea infusers with a sample of TNT. When a rat touches one of the infusers, the trainer clicks and gives the rat food. At this point, the method has transitioned to operant conditioning. During the last stage of training, the rats are exposed to multiple tea infusers where some contain TNT and others do not. They always receive a reward for touching the tea infusers with TNT, but no reward is given for touching the infusers that do not contain TNT. Once fully trained, they alert their handlers to the presence of landmines by scratching at the ground.

    Overall, it's fascinating to me how rodents can be trained to do this. This shows the success of both classical and operant conditioning, and makes me question how this can further be used to train animals to complete tasks such as this one!


Hartley, D. (2023, March 3). How psychologically conditioned rats are defusing landmines. Psychology Today.


  1. Hi Meredith! Your blog post was very creative. I never thought rats would be able to sniff out land mines. The picture of the rat really brought to life what these little creatures look like. They are much bigger than a regular rat which is interesting. It is also interesting to see that the rats are both classically and operantly trained to sniff the land mines out. I really enjoyed reading this!

  2. Hello Meredith! Rats being able to sniff out land mines is actually quite fascinating. They are normally so small, I would never expect them to be able to do that! This post was very informative and very interesting. Well done!


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