Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sargon, my HeroRat, passed away

Pardon the slightly off-topic post-

Sad news to share. Sargon, my adopted mine detection sniffing rat, passed away of old age the other day. He had cleared mines since 2003 and served over 300 families in Mozambique. Honestly, I was surprised to receive the update as I just saw Sargon featured in the October National Geographic magazine (I can't find the picture online), but I guess that he went out with a bang, checking out at the peak of his career.

I had met the visionary behind these mine-detecting rats a few months ago, Bart Weetjens, when he came into the office (Bart was elected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2006). His organization, Apopo, just received a $1 award from the Skoll Foundation. It was then that I participated in their "Adopt a Rat" program and selected Sargon as my wonder-pet.

I received a touching and slightly humorous announcement in my email box informing me that this "detail-orientated" "quick learning" "reliable, professional, and effective alone or in a team" rat passed away of natural causes. It added that he was known to work "even harder for peanuts or bananas."

There is an element of replication here, I was meeting with Bart to discuss his finances and he has received numerous pledges from other African governments wanting to replicate his operations in their countries but the wheels of African governments turn so slowly that he has not seen any of the money. In fact he has an over-abundance of requests for replication, only limited by his own operational budget and capacity. I suppose there could be potential for Apopo branding and franchising across the world but I don't think the local communities could completely sustain the operations as consumers, the model would likely have to be a mixture of government, individual philanthropy from the West and local contributions in-kind or cash.

There are still many HeroRats working hard in Sargon's memory if you want to Adopt one of these HeroRats.

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