Teams of rats being tested in search-and-rescue scenarios

Posted at 6:42 AM, Nov 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-14 06:42:56-05

MOROGORO, Tanzania — If you're trapped under rubble from an earthquake or tornado, a rat is probably the last thing you'd want to see — until now.

Rats are going from pests to life-savers as a team of Dutch researchers trains them to go where most first responders can't in the wake of major catastrophes.

Using a mock disaster zone in the east African country of Tanzania, the rodents are run through a series of tests where they must locate a person.

Upon doing so, the rats pull a switch attached to their neck to inform crews they found a body and then return to their original starting point, where they receive an edible award.

It's a big deal for this breed of rats that researchers say can weigh an average of three pounds.

Crews are now working to arm the rats with special backpacks containing a video camera, location device, and two-way audio system so victims can talk to rescue crews.

The rats are expected to undergo more testing in Africa before moving to Turkey, where they will train with real search and rescue teams.

Fox's Jackie Ibanez reported from New York.