The African giant rat found more than 100 landmines and other explosives during its service, according to APOPO, the non-governmental demining organization that trained him.
His work led him to win a gold medal from the British veterinary charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals in 2020.
Announcing the news on Tuesday, APOPO said: “It is with a heavy heart that we share the sad news that HeroRAT Magawa died peacefully this weekend. Magawa was in good health and spent most of last week playing with his usual enthusiasm “but towards the weekend he began to slow down, slept more and showed less interest in food in his last days. Magawa had recently celebrated his birthday in November and reached the great age of 8.”
The tribute said Magawa had left a “lasting legacy in the lives he saved,” adding: “All of us at APOPO feel the loss of Magawa and we are grateful for the incredible work he has done.”
Magawa, who retired last year, is APOPO’s most successful “hero rat” to date, the organization said.
“His contribution allows Cambodian communities to live, work and play without fear of losing lives or limbs,” APOPO added.
African giant pouch rats are intelligent and easy to train – Magawa started training from a young age.
He was born in November 2013 at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania, where he learned to find explosives using his amazing sense of smell, APOPO said. Three years later, he moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where he began his career.
APOPO trains the rats to detect the smell of the explosive chemicals used in landmines and point them out to their handlers.
Magawa’s work has helped the organization clear more than 225,000 square feet of land in Cambodia, where decades of conflict have left the landscape strewn with dangerous unexploded ordnance.
CNN’s Rob Picheta contributed reporting.