Trained scent detection HeroRATs

Internal training and accreditation are instrumental to the deployment of HeroRATs, which are conducted at APOPO's training headquarters on the campus of the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania. Here, African giant pouched rats are bred and trained for scent detection purposes. They are each trained for a specific programme following strict protocols, where they learn to detect and indicate their target scent and complete search strategies required for deployment. Once training is complete and the rats have been internally accredited, they can then be deployed across the world for operations. APOPO works with implementation and supports partners to achieve the best possible outcomes. Additional accreditation from independent sources can occur at this stage, before rats begin operations. 

Strict training protocols and Standard Operating Procedures. Regular monitoring and evaluation. APOPO's training site, located at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, receives continued support from the university and government to operate. 

Adequate financial support for employment of staff and upkeep of rats (housing, food, veterinary care). 

As rats are bred by APOPO but require time to be trained, an adequate pre-deployment time must be taken into consideration for either training next generations or starting projects at new locations. 

For 25 years, APOPO has been training scent detection rats. Central to our success is the continued monitoring, evaluation, and refinement of our training methods. Using exclusively positive reinforcement training, scent detection rats advance through pre-defined stages of training. Each program has an associated Standard Operating Procedure. In addition, continued research explores how our training and deployment can be improved even further. For new potential programs, such as wildlife detection, a team of highly qualified researchers and trainers design training methods which are then evaluated and adapted. A wide range of peer-reviewed scientific publications are available detailing APOPO's work.