How Giant African Rats Are Saving Lives in Former War Zones

MOROGORO, Tanzania—In the shadow of a misty mountain range, an elite special-forces unit is training for a dangerous mission: ridding the world’s formerly war-torn regions of land mines.

Members don’t wear body armor or brandish metal detectors. They are African giant pouched rats, rodents whose keen sense of smell allows them to sniff out explosives faster, and more reliably, than traditional minesweeping technology.

The rats’ noses are so hypersensitive that they can detect tuberculosis in sputum samples more accurately than local lab tests and ferret out criminals trying to smuggle endangered species.

On a recent morning, Samia, a long-whiskered rat attached to a miniature harness, was scurrying up and down a roped-off section of a large grassy field in Morogoro, a…

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