Dear Tico Times:
“Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.”
– Jane Goodall
Costa Rica is truly a paradise and, the longer I live here, the more I realize how proud we all should be of the country’s underlying philosophy for animal protection: animals should live in their natural environment, without cages. This philosophy – championed years ago by such pioneers as Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey – is essentially the same as that of the McKee Foundation (www.mckeeproject.org), founded by a Costa Rican veterinarian, Dr. Gerardo Vicente, and myself.
The existence of this national animal protection strategy became clearer as I planned the itinerary for the recent visit of Dr. Luke Gamble, founder of Worldwide Veterinary Service in the United Kingdom (www.wvs.org.uk), and his film team from Red Earth Studio (www.redearthstudio.com).
Per the film producer’s request, I sought “shelter-like” facilities for Dr. Luke and crew, so the doctor could spend time at a facility and offer free veterinary services to animals in need.
The most interesting programs I found were the ones that support animals in their natural environment. These programs were founded by dedicated and unsung heroes and supported on a wing and a prayer. I was blessed with meeting many of these heroes as I worked on the doctor’s itinerary.
While here, Dr Luke visited and filmed Kids Saving the Rainforest (www.kidssavingtherainforest.org), in Quepos, and Hacienda Barú (www.haciendabaru.com), in Dominical, one of our first ecotourism spots where Diane Ewing set up a community outreach clinic for horses and cows to be treated by Dr Luke. Karen Graumann arranged a stunning few days with Carol and Earl Crews working and filming at the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary (www.osawildlife.org), and, at Animales de Asís in San José, Dr. Luke received McKee Foundation surgery training from Dr. Rivas and Dr. Solano (McKee surgery chief and assistant), who have taught over 500 vets spay and neuter surgery techniques for rural conditions in some six countries. If you are interested in community training, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A follow-up community outreach spay neuter clinic with Dr. Luke was co-sponsored by Zancudo Lodge (www.zancudolodge.com) and Dr. Eduardo Bitter of the McKee Foundation on the island across from Golfito.
Unfortunately, Dr. Luke and the crew were unable to visit Marc Ward at Sea Turtles Forever (www.seaturtlesforever.com) – an amazing organization in Guanacaste, or the Sloth Sanctuary in Limón (www.slothrescue.org).
As a co-founder of the McKee Project and Foundation – which serves disenfranchised dogs and cats by training communities to create a better cultural environment and be proactive in dog and cat care – this work has been a gradual lesson for me, too.
Whatever your interest, for example if you see that park rangers are needed in a nearby reserve, or if you believe stronger protection for whales and oceans is necessary, please get involved and help create change. The animals and the environment need you.
There are many organizations worthy of support in Costa Rica, and spay and neuter efforts by local veterinarians need your support, too.
The program filmed in Costa Rica is scheduled to air in the United Kingdom, on SKY, on Feb.12. For more information, write to Red Earth Studio at email@example.com.
McKee Project/McKee Foundation