When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

On patrol
On patrol
Didier Burg

A port city just like Marseille, but less riddled with crime, Rotterdam is nonetheless equipping itself with an unlikely new unit to fight illegal activity. Forensic police plan to use five big brown rats to shed light on criminal plots.

After two years of training that will soon end, Derrick, Magnum, Poirot, Dupond and Dupont — all named after famous detectives — should prove able trackers thanks to their impressive olfactory skills that surpass those of a dog. This rat dream team will start work next year in the Dutch city. Drugs, money, explosives, bodies, blood — these rodents have shown a hitherto unsuspected capacity for differentiating between odors. Rats have 1,500 olfactory genes, compared to the 1,100 of dogs and the 650 of humans.

Above and beyond their natural talent for sniffing out smells, rats also appear to be more reliable than German Shepherds. Much less sensitive to emotional bonds, a rat is not influenced by a human’s attitude or sideways glance. Furthermore, some criminal cases in the Netherlands have highlighted errors dogs made when identifying suspects who had used weapons.

Rats also make financial sense. The initial cost of buying the animal is lower, of course, but training the rodents is also much quicker. The logistics of transporting these little animals, which are about the size as a large hamster, are simpler, and their food and veterinary costs are significantly less expensive than those for dogs.

This project has been made possible thanks to the tenacity of a police civil servant in Rotterdam’s forensics department. She began investigating the possibility of using rats after seeing their prowess in Cambodian and African fields, where they are used to detect mines.

But the Netherlands is not the only place interested in exploiting the talent of rodents. In Israel, the border agency and police have also tested the use of mice as a means of detecting explosives and narcotics. According to a policeman, a rat can easily detect the smell of powder in the air after a shooting. But despite all the benefits, Derrick, Magnum, Poirot, Dupont and Dupond will be mainly limited to sniffing missions within police stations. Investigations at the crime scene are not suitable for rodents, who loathe venturing into new terrain.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

Why The 'Perfect Storm' Of Iran's Protests May Be Unstoppable

The latest round of anti-regime protests in Iran is different than other in the 40 years of the Islamic Republic: for its universality and boldness, the level of public fury and grief, and the role of women and social media. The target is not some policy or the economy, but the regime itself.

A woman holds a lock of her hair during a London rally to protest the murder of Mahsa Amini in London

Roshanak Astaraki

-Analysis-

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran on Sept. 16, after a possible beating at a police station, has sparked outrage and mass protests in Iran and abroad. There have been demonstrations and a violent attempt to suppress them in more than 100 districts in every province of Iran.

These protests may look like others since 2017, and back even to 1999 — yet we may be facing an unprecedented turning point in Iranians' opposition to the Islamic Republic. Indeed newly installed conservative President Ibrahim Raisi could not have expected such momentum when he set off for a quick trip to New York and back for a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

For one of the mistakes of a regime that takes pride in dismissing the national traditions of Iran is to have overlooked the power of grief among our people.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ