STILLWATER, Oklahoma -- A researcher at Oklahoma State University received a $740,000 grant to study African giant pouched rats and whether they can sniff out bombs.
The U.S. Army research office is funding the grant to help screen the best animals that can detect bombs.
Alex Ophir is a 36-year-old assistant professor in OSU's Zoology Department who will lead the study.
"Our team will observe the behavior of the rats in the wild and evaluate individual differences in the laboratory, including genetic markers that can help us develop a ‘profile' to enhance the selection of the most efficient explosives biodetectors," said Dr. Ophir.
"I am very excited to be part of the study. It can potentially help save lives."
Researchers say the rodents are trainable and have an acute sense of smell to sniff out land mines. They're also small enough that they don't set them off.
Land mines that lay hidden in fields from current and past conflicts worldwide account for more than 1,000 deaths and more than 2,500 injuries per year, according to information from the Landmine & Cluster Munitions Monitor.
The study will last five years. Dr. Ophir has already been to Tanzania to research the rats. His team will bring a group of rats from the African country to OSU soon so the animals can be studied.