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October 4, 2011

At the Movies: Learning About Wildlife Protection

HSI participates in environmental protection event for Costa Rican schoolchildren

Humane Society International

  • HSI's Grettel Delgadillo turns a schoolgirl into a butterfly. HSI

  • Excited schoolchildren and their parents ready for the movie. Grettel Delgadillo/HSI

  • The coloring book given to schoolchildren at the event. Grettel Delgadillo/HSI

by Grettel Delgadillo

As the plane’s cargo bay opened and the wild birds flew away from their captors, a look of great joy came over the faces of the children. For the vast majority of them, this was their first visit to a movie theater, and they were entranced by 20th Century Fox/Blue Sky Studios’ animated feature “Rio,” which deals with the issue of illegal wildlife trade.

A committee from Costa Rica’s Ministry of Justice invited HSI to participate in the event, aimed at helping to sensitize the public to different forms of violence. The film was followed by a forum for discussion about the topics of illegal wildlife trade and the ownership of wild animals as pets.  One hundred children, along with their teachers, parents and the principal from the Tres Ríos de Venado School, located in a small rural community about 2.5 hours from the northern city of San Carlos, were selected to attend.

Planting seeds for thought

Before the film started rolling, HSI kick-started the event with a simple question for the children: among those present, how many of you own or know someone who owns a parrot, a monkey, a raccoon or any other wild animal as a pet? The show of hands spoke volumes to the reality of this issue in their community. Children were then briefed on the importance of not keeping wildlife as pets, as well as favoring companion animals such as cats and dogs instead. The schoolchildren proved eager and receptive to this information. 

At the end of the movie, each child received a coloring book featuring the story of a bird illegally poached to become an exotic pet. The books were provided by Zoo Ave wildlife rescue center, which has been working with HSI for several years.

“The message of the movie and HSI’s participation were crucial to driving home the point of this topic to the children, especially in San Carlos, where poaching parrots, cockatoos and other wild birds is so widespread,” said Greivin Arana, representative of Circuito de Cines Magaly, the movie theater chain that participated in the event and made the showing possible.

Both teachers and parents were pleased with the outcome of the event, which allowed the children to learn about and reflect on the issue of illegal wildlife trade, as well as its effects on endangered species across Latin America.