Move over, Captain Ron! There is a new pack of dogs helping reverse the decline of endangered species! With cotton-top tamarins increasingly threatened by the illegal pet trade, we came up with a fun way to get kids in Colombia more interested in choosing dogs, rather than monkeys, as pets.
Keepers from Disney’s Animal Kingdom recently joined forces with the education staff of Proyecto Tití in Colombia to teach children how to train their dogs as part of the amiGUAU program.
The term amiGUAU comes from the Spanish word for friend “amigo,” and the sound dogs make in Spanish “guau-guau.” Developing strong relationships between children and their dogs is key to reducing Colombian children’s desire to have cotton-top tamarins and other wild animals as pets.
During the four-week program, fourth- and fifth-grade children from rural Colombia learned how to understand their dog’s behavior, teach their dog new behaviors and care for their domesticated animals. It’s important for children to understand that it’s their responsibility to help all animals. Some, like dogs and cats, need our help to find food, water and love, but wild animals like cotton-top tamarins just need our help protecting their forest homes so they can find their own food and families.
Late last year, Proyecto Tití educators traveled from Colombia to Orlando to learn from the original Disney Conservation Dog, Captain Ron! They learned the basics of dog training from Captain Ron’s human companion, Pepe Peruyero, and from Disney’s Animal Kingdom keepers Carlos Torrez from the Trails Team and Alejandra Aramburo from Conservation Station.
Alejandra and Carlos traveled to Colombia in March to help kick off the program. They each spent a week in rural Colombia refining the training skills of the Proyecto Tití staff and helping the children learn how to train their dogs. The Proyecto Tití team enjoyed learning how their training skills could be used on so many more animals than just dogs, as the keepers shared their stories about all the animals they train at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
A trip to Colombia is not complete without a visit to see cotton-top tamarins in the wild. After a week-long training session, each keeper traveled to the long-term field site to meet cotton-top tamarins in person. They also met with the artisans of the eco-mochila project to see first-hand how the work of Proyecto Tití is impacting the lives of locals.
Alejandra said, “For me, it was a unique, life-changing experience. One that gave me a different perspective on a lot of things and left me with hope and energy to share it with everyone.”
We are excited to welcome the new dogs into our Disney Conservation Pack that are helping reverse the decline of threatened species and increase the time kids and families spend time in nature!