Humane Society International trains local authorities in Central America on forensic veterinary sciences

Humane Society International / Latin America


SAN JOSE—More than 250 government officials, veterinarians and other professionals in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala attended a series of trainings provided by the animal protection organization Humane Society International to reinforce their knowledge investigative techniques and forensic veterinary medicine to apply in cases of crimes committed against animals.

In all three countries, officials participated in a workshop that addressed topics such as crime scene inspection, evidence collection and errors that may affect the chain of custody. For veterinarians, trainings involved their role in identifying animal cruelty and crimes against wildlife and how to properly describe injuries and create expert reports and other topics.

Victor Gonzalez, veterinarian and director of the International Animal Forensic Science Working Group, carried out a simulation that allowed participants to put into practice their crime scene investigation knowledge.

“Through this training, we want to share different perspectives that must be taken into account in both civil and criminal investigation of cases where animals are involved. Today, many guidelines for crimes committed against humans are followed, but perhaps we should follow a different path, due to the context in which these types of illegal acts occur,” said Gonzalez.

“For example, understanding how to handle a crime scene—which is the starting point of any investigation—is crucial for all subsequent laboratory work and for the final interpretation, where different disciplines must participate. It is changing the paradigm of what exists until today, for a more comprehensive vision,” Gonzalez added.

“It’s important for law enforcement officials to be well versed in crimes committed against animals. Our work in Central America supporting local authorities with animal welfare is incredibly meaningful because it increases the chances that these cases will be properly investigated and prosecuted,” Andrea Borel, director of HSI/Latin America, said.


Media Contact: Alejandra Zúñiga: (506) 7012-5598;

High-level workshop bolsters battle against major threat to Costa Rica’s biodiversity

Humane Society International / Latin America

HSI/Latin America

SAN JOSE— This week, top officials from national judicial bodies and ministries convened at the National Police Academy in Pococi, Limon Province, to intensify their fight against the illicit trade ravaging Costa Rica’s native wildlife. Backed by Humane Society International, the four-day training is a direct response to the escalating plunder and trade of wildlife species.

Wildlife trafficking has become not only a threat to hundreds of species but also one of the most lucrative illegal trades in the world, with an annual value of up to USD 20 billion. Animals such as glass frogs and beetles are increasingly illegally extracted from the Costa Rican rainforest to be paraded as exotic pets while birds, sea turtles and butterflies are killed to turn their parts into trinkets.

“Latin America is a region with a great diversity of species and, in particular, Costa Rica is considered ‘megadiverse.’ This generates a spotlight on wildlife, which becomes a resource under pressure due to human action. Wildlife trafficking in this region is a considerable threat to our biodiversity,” said Jose Pablo Gonzalez, deputy environmental prosecutor and National Environmental Security Commission coordinator.

Enhancing coordination among law enforcement agencies and hands-on drills to identify wildlife crimes at airport checkpoints were some of the topics addressed at the second workshop of the series “Combating wildlife trafficking in Costa Rica and its manifestations at the regional and national level.”

More than 40 representatives of national authorities gathered to ramp up efforts in investigating and prosecuting wildlife crime originating or transiting through Costa Rica, including officials from the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the Judicial Investigation Agency and its Forensic Sciences Laboratory, the Attorney General’s office, and the National Animal Health Service.

This series of workshops, as well as a previous donation of specialized equipment, are part of a project funded by the United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs  and administered by Humane Society International/Latin America, in coordination with Costa Rica’s National Environmental Security Commission. The workshops were organized by the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

“At HSI, we view wildlife trafficking as a major threat to species around the world, including endangered ones. These animals suffer greatly and end their days as pets, decorations or souvenirs, and this is unacceptable. Therefore, we are pleased to support authorities in their investigation and prosecution efforts to reduce wildlife trafficking that originates or transits through Costa Rica,” said Andrea Borel, HSI/Latin America executive director.

“Wildlife trade encourages other illegal activities, is extremely cruel to animals, and represents a risk to human health. For this reason, we are very grateful and honored to collaborate with Costa Rican authorities in improving their capacities to combat this environmental crime,” said Joaquin de la Torre, IFAW’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.


Media contact: Alejandra Zuniga,

Some of the iconic species include anteaters, kinkajous and howler monkeys

Humane Society International / Latin America

Santiago Billy/AP Images for HSI

PETEN, Guatemala—In a joint effort by non-governmental organizations Humane Society International/Latin America and Asociacion Rescate y Conservacion de Vida Silvestre—which is known as  ARCAS—40 animals of 14 different species were released in the Yaxha Nakum Naranjo National Park in Peten, Guatemala, after being rescued from illegal trafficking and going through a rigorous rehabilitation process.

With the authorization of Guatemalan authorities from the National Council for Protected Areas, or CONAP, the animals were released to the Maya Biosphere Reserve following rehabilitation after falling victim to wildlife trafficking or negative interactions with humans. Some of the rehabilitation activities included learning how to fly, jump, run, hide from predators and identify food in the wild.

“Keeping wild animals as ‘pets’ is a dangerous trend that is seriously affecting our ecosystems,” said Andrea Borel, executive director of HSI/Latin America. “Together with our local partner, ARCAS, we work to give these animals—who should have never been taken from their homes—a second chance in life to grow and flourish.”

Endangered species are highly valued in the wildlife trade because of their rarity, leading to overexploitation and black-market trade, and pushing these species further toward extinction. The rehabilitation of these animals is essential in strengthening the populations of endemic and endangered species in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, which have been considerably depleted and diminished in their natural habitats by human action. Release and rehabilitation of these animals is necessary to ensure that there are healthy populations capable of adapting and reproducing in their natural habitat.

ARCAS carries out the physical, medical and behavioral rehabilitation of victims of wildlife trafficking under strict scientific management standards and later releases animals into their natural habitat. HSI/Latin America and ARCAS have been working together in wildlife protection and conservation in Guatemala since 2004.


Donation includes kennels and night cameras that will contribute to law enforcement agencies’ investigative work

Humane Society International / Latin America


SAN JOSE, Costa Rica— As wildlife trafficking has become a threat to hundreds of species, Humane Society International/Latin America is supporting Costa Rican authorities in their fight against it by donating equipment needed in wildlife trafficking investigations

The equipment, which includes animal carriers, herpetological bags, animal handling gloves and cameras, is valued at more than USD $100,000.

The donated equipment will support work done by three parts of the government: the Judicial Investigation , the Ministry of Environment and Energy, and the Ministry of Public Security.

Andrea Borel, HSI/Latin America executive director, explained that this donation is part of a project funded by the United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and administered by HSI with the goal of improving Costa Rica’s capacity to combat wildlife trafficking.

“Wildlife trafficking is a major threat to species around the world, including endangered ones. These animals suffer greatly and end their days as pets, decorations or souvenirs, and this is unacceptable. Therefore, we are pleased to support authorities in their investigation and prosecution efforts to reduce wildlife trafficking that originates or transits through Costa Rica,” said Borel.

Shirley Ramirez, member of the National Commission for Biodiversity, said: “In recent years, we have detected an increase in cases of wildlife trafficking in Costa Rica, both aimed at national and international markets. The complexity and organization of these criminals evolves every day; hence, the importance of equipment, such as the one donated, that allows us to achieve successful investigations and subsequent legal processes.”

Wildlife trafficking is also one of the most lucrative illegal trades in the world. According to INTERPOL data, wildlife trafficking has an annual value of up to USD $20 billion. In Costa Rica, animals such as glass frogs, butterflies, beetles, birds and sea turtles are victims of the wildlife trade.


Media Contact: Andrea Borel: +506 7300 5706;

Humane Society International / Latin America

Claudio Ramirez for HSI

CHILE—More than 300 people took part in a webinar on disaster response organized by the Responsible Ownership Program of the Undersecretary of Regional and Administrative Development of the Chilean government and supported by Humane Society International/Latin America.

The webinar came after the fires that affected Chile between December 2022 and March 2023, when Humane Society International in Chile distributed veterinary first aid equipment, medicine and food to local organizations in support of the rescue and care of wildlife, domestic animals and farm animals.

The webinar, “Animal Dimension in Disaster Response: International Experiences and Global Learning,” was held on June 1, with participants from countries including the United States, Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and a large number of municipal officials from different regions of Chile.

“We are pleased to participate in this type of initiative since it is our duty to extend the learning acquired in each animal disaster response experience. We hope that the lessons shared will strengthen and inspire the work of people in Latin America who are on the front lines helping animals,” said Adam Parascándola, vice president of Humane Society International’s Animal Rescue Team.

“One of the strengths of this seminar was the discussion between the different stakeholders involved in the prevention, attention and mitigation of disasters. We learned that an animal rescue manual has been developed in Chile and that the discussions on the Animal Dimension are within the framework of ‘One Health’. It was interesting to hear, for example, that, during the Seminar, the Municipality of Chañaral committed to making an annex to its disaster care plan to include rescue and animal care in an emergency,” said Dr. Claudia Edwards, regional coordinator of disaster response for Humane Society International/Latin America.

“In highly vulnerable countries like Chile, we believe that the way to advance and grow is to work collaboratively with the authorities, and with the relevant stakeholders at the local level. This seminar was an example of collaboration that allowed us to extend the knowledge that HSI has acquired over time and raise awareness about the importance of considering animals in disaster response plans,” said Daniela Sánchez, country director for Humane Society International in Chile.

During the day, speakers shared their experience in disasters such as the eruption of the Fuego Volcano in Guatemala, Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, earthquakes in Mexico and Türkiye, fires in Australia and California, and the war in Ukraine. Topics included HSI’s global disaster response program, community preparedness, veterinary work and the rescue of wild and domestic animals.


Media Contact: Daniela Sanchez: (+56 9) 62181089;

These endangered birds returned to their natural habitat, thanks to HSI/Latin America and ARCAS Rescue Center

Humane Society International / Latin America

Mauricio Mota/Humane Society International

PETEN, Guatemala—Thirty-six parrots (Amazona autumnalis, Amazona albifrons and Pionus senilis) were released in the Rio Azul National Park, in Peten, Guatemala, on May 25, after being rescued from illegal trafficking and going through a rigorous rehabilitation process.

The birds’ release resulted from a joint effort by non-governmental, non-profit organizations, Asociacion Rescate y Conservacion de Vida Silvestre and Humane Society International/Latin America, who have been working together since 2007 in wildlife protection and conservation in Guatemala.

Under the guidance of the National Council for Protected Areas (in Spanish: Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas, or CONAP), ARCAS Wildlife Rescue Center and HSI staff facilitated the return of the 36 parrots of different species to the forest. Some of the parrots were victims of wildlife trafficking and others experienced negative interaction with humans.

According to ARCAS director, Fernando Martinez, the rescue center carries out physical, medical and ethological rehabilitation of the different species that enter as a result of illegal trafficking, under strict scientific management standards. The animals are later released in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve.

“The Rescue Center’s mission is to reinforce existing wildlife populations, to prevent the extinction of species, and thus ensuring that there are healthy populations capable of adapting and reproducing in their natural habitat,” said Martinez.

Mauricio Mota, advocacy officer for ESAP, supported by HSI/Latin America, explained that keeping parrots as pets is a frequent activity in Guatemala, and they are obtained mainly through illegal wildlife trafficking, which puts populations at risk.

“That is why HSI/Latin America and ARCAS work to ensure a successful rehabilitation of these animals and thus give them a second chance to live in freedom. Also, we urge everyone to refrain from buying these animals as pets, to not purchase objects that contain parts or derivatives of wild animals, and to report to the authorities any suspicious activity regarding wildlife,” said Mota.

The parrots will be monitored during a couple of weeks after the release, through sightings on trails and on observation platforms.

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Media Contact: Mauricio Mota: 502-324-38475;   

Survey conducted by Humane Society International reveals positive trends regarding the welfare of companion animals

Humane Society International / Latin America


SAN JOSE—A study of street dog and cat populations conducted by animal welfare organization Humane Society International in nine key areas in Costa Rica has revealed that animal numbers are starting to decrease in some urban areas thanks to spay and neuter programs.

Conducted in July and August last year in four urban, three rural and two coastal sites, the study involved counting street dog and cat numbers (both those with and without an owner), as well as household surveys in the Montes de Oca, Curridabat, La Union and Cartago districts, rural areas adjacent to the Greater Metropolitan Area, and the San Francisco and Tortuguero communities in Pococi, Limon province.

Andrea Borel, executive director of HSI/Latin America, says: “The study allowed us to identify and compare dog and cat populations at these sites, as well as the current status of sterilization and vaccination in urban and rural locations. We were also able to see how these roaming dogs and cats interact with people and other animals, including wildlife. What we found was a quantifiable decrease in dog populations in those areas where sterilization is most common and a high level of sterilization in urban areas. This is vital data that will help HSI collaborate with existing animal welfare programs in Costa Rica to achieve sustainable change through humane dog and cat population management, affordable and accessible sterilization, preventative veterinary care, public education and a strengthened culture of responsible pet ownership.”

A total of 2,168 household surveys were conducted in combination with early morning street counts of animal numbers. A team of researchers used HSI’s specially developed mobile phone application to accurately record the location of each dog and cat and calculate the total number of roaming animals on each street. The teams also assessed the visible health status of each animal. By replicating pre-defined Google routes surveyed in 2014, HSI was able to demonstrate that the street dog population density has decreased in some urban areas in Costa Rica where spay and neuter is most common. In some areas the survey revealed a more than 80% dog sterilization rate.

Free-roaming dogs and cats, when present in high density, may face serious welfare issues, such as starvation, disease and untreated injuries. At worst, they may also compromise public safety and environmental health, and contribute to the deaths of other animal species. A decrease in dog density is often an indicator of the effectiveness of animal welfare and sterilization programs developed by private and public institutions, particularly in areas where the municipality has an active role.

Other relevant survey findings included:

  • A high level of sterilization of dogs and cats, mainly in urban districts such as Montes de Oca (81%). Additionally, 86% of cats reported in urban areas were sterilized, compared to 63% in rural areas.
  • The majority of households said they had sterilized their companion animals in private clinics (63%), although sterilization campaigns prevailed in three rural areas.
  • Companionship is the main reason for having a dog (96% in urban areas and 91% rural), followed by personal/property protection, which is more common in rural areas.
  • Most people acquire an animal as a gift from a friend or relative (62% in urban areas and 48% rural), followed by rescuing them from the street.
  • Cases of animal cruelty often go unreported, with the main barriers to reporting being an unwillingness to get involved, the perception that it is not the individual’s responsibility to report cruelty, and lack of knowledge how and where to report it.
  • There are complex interactions between free roaming dogs and cats and wildlife. Although specific wild animal species involved varied from area to area, the most common interaction cited was dogs and cats hunting small animals.
  • The percentage of households where someone had been bitten by a dog was noticeably lower compared to other Latin American countries studied by HSI (Mexico and Chile).


Media contact: Alejandra Zúñiga ;

Humane Society International / Latin America

Cheryl Gerber/AP Images for the HSUS Pamela Alfaro, pictured left, accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International were proud to present Pamela Alfaro, executive director of Red Informativa del Movimiento Animal, with a Lifetime Achievement Award at Animal Care Expo for her commitment to helping the animals of Chile.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is a recognition given during Animal Care Expo—the largest international educational conference and trade show for animal welfare professionals and volunteers—to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the improvement of animals’ lives through long-term personal and professional commitment and dedication to the field of animal welfare.

Alfaro has been a pioneer in promoting the sterilization of dogs and cats in Chile for over 20 years, developing training for veterinarians in minimally invasive sterilization surgery, running clinics for animals in underserved communities and supporting and advising various government-run programs at the municipal, regional and national levels.

Alfaro said: “I am honored to have been recognized with this prestigious award. I have been fighting for animals since I was 10 years old, and the knowledge and skills I have gained participating in this conference have renewed my motivation and provided ideas and strategies that I am eager to implement upon my return to Chile.”

Jeffrey Flocken, president of Humane Society International, said: “Pamela’s incredible lifelong commitment to helping the animals of Chile is inspiring. In particular, I enjoyed learning about her vision in introducing humane and effective methods of managing cat and dog populations in Chile. Pamela clearly exemplifies the kind of passion and dedication that deserves to be honored with such an award.”

Marcela Diaz, companion animals and engagement program manager for Humane Society International in Chile, said: “Attending Animal Care Expo is a lifechanging event for individuals who dedicate their lives to change the reality for animals across the world. Oftentimes we feel lonely and isolated in this fight, and coming together with individuals from all around the globe renews our strength, our knowledge and our commitment to continue the fight for all animals.”

Animal Care Expo was hosted by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International in New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States earlier this month.

Experts from all aspects of animal welfare will come together from across the globe to learn about the latest programs, share best practices, gain inspiration, and build lasting connections.

This year, the conference attracted over 2,500 participants from across the United States, as well as dozens of individuals and organizations from around the world. HSI provided more than 30 sponsorship opportunities for individuals working to advance dog and cat welfare in more than 10 countries on four continents to attend.

Other attendees from Chile include Katrina Justiniano of Fundación Carlos Huerta in Tongoy, Verónica Barrestica of Fundación Felinnos, Paulette Goujon of Fundacion Amigos de los Animales and Andrea Espinoza of the Undersecretary of Regional and Administrative Development.


Media contact: Daniela Sanchez: +56 9 62181089;

Humane Society International / Latin America


SAN JOSE, Costa Rica—From how to improvise a muzzle to the correct way to treat a poisoned cat or dog—these were some of the topics addressed at Humane Society International/Latin America’s first aid training. The workshop was given to 20 judicial police agents from the new specialized section against environmental crimes and other regional offices.

The new section has dealt with 83 cases of animal cruelty nationwide from April to December 2022. HSI/Latin America seeks to provide judicial agents with tools so that they can safeguard animal lives at crime scenes, while protecting valuable evidence.

“We analyzed the most common examples of animal cruelty, for example, physical injuries resulting in fractures, bleeding and burns, and how agents can give the animal a better chance to survive, but always paying attention to the surroundings so as not to lose evidence that can contribute to cruelty cases,” said Sofia Herra, cruelty prevention and companion animals program manager for HSI/Latin America.

Workshop participants also practiced helping an animal in the event of poisoning, suffocation or heat stroke, how to apply bandages and temporary splints, and responding when a dog or cat has a seizure or suffers cardiorespiratory arrest.

“Agents from this specialized section are often the first to respond to complaints of animal cruelty in cases taken by the Judicial Police. Therefore, this workshop was very useful since it provides us with tools to deal with these situations and help the animals involved, always preserving the integrity of crime scene,” said investigator Shirley Calderon of the specialized section against environmental crimes.

HSI/Latin America seeks to work jointly with government institutions that address animal cruelty in Costa Rica. “We want to support their capacity building, with workshops such as this one, but we are also interested in actively contributing to preventing and reducing animal cruelty cases in the country,” Herra said.


Media contact: Alejandra Zuniga: 7012-5598;

Humane Society International

Claudio Ramirez for HSI

CHILE—Humane Society International is providing critical supplies to aid animals affected by the wildfires plaguing Chile. Oxygen concentrators, food and veterinary medical supplies were provided by the HSI team to animal rehabilitation centers and veterinary hospitals to support hundreds of wild, companion and farm animals impacted by the fires in the Ñuble and Bio Bio Region.

After three weeks, the forest fires remain active and have further spread into the Maule, La Araucanía and Los Ríos regions. The area affected by the fires is over 436,000 hectares (over a million acres)—three times the size of the Greater London area.

“We are seeing how fires are becoming more common each year in many parts of the world, destroying communities and habitats for millions of people and animals. Chile is now experiencing one of the worst fires in decades and we are sending resources to provide as much emergency treatment to animals affected as possible,” says Kelly Donithan director of animal disaster response for Humane Society International.

The situation is critical, many animals have died, and others remain severely burned. As a first estimate over 16,000 farm animals have died and over 2,000 are still receiving critical veterinary care. Treatments for injuries sustained from fires are painful, long and expensive and without additional supplies, many of these affected animals will not survive.

“We have been in dialogue with all stakeholders involved, monitoring critical needs and coordinating with our international team to provide timely supplies to help the animals affected. With help from Quiltro Foundation in Chile, we have delivered veterinary supplies such as oxygen concentrators for the treatment of wild animals in critical conditions along with food and other medication to support hundreds of severely burned companion, wild and farm animals,” says Daniela Sanchez, Chile country director for Humane Society International.

The combined efforts between the National Disaster Prevention and Response Service, the National Veterinary Board, the Agriculture and Livestock Service, the University of Concepción, the military forces and many veterinary private clinics and local volunteers have resulted in the installation of a number of local veterinary attention points to help animals in need.

Humane Society International will continue connecting and supporting local stakeholders in Chile to help provide relief to the thousands of affected animals.


Media Contact: Daniela Benavides Sanchez:

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