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Now an update to a story that we brought you last year. Spoiler alert - it's got a happy ending. It's about a toucan in Costa Rica who had its upper beak hacked off. The perpetrator was never found. Local residents brought the bird to an animal rescue center. And thanks to dedicated workers, extraordinary doctors and engineers, the toucan now has a prosthetic beak. NPR's Carrie Kahn was just in Costa Rica. She sent us this update on the bird, its amazing beak and the national movement it sparked to outlaw animal cruelty.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: The day I arrived at ZooAve, a private animal rescue center about 30 miles outside Costa Rica's capital, Grecia the toucan was just put out on public display. Nine-year-old Leonardo Jimenez was thrilled to finally see it.
LEONARDO JIMENEZ: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "This is the third time I've tried to see Grecia," he says. Jimenez started following Grecia's plight ever since the bird was brought here in January 2015. Nearly its entire top beak was cut off.
RONALD SIBAJA: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "She was really bad off," says ZooAve caretaker Ronald Sibaja. "All that was left of the top beak was a jagged, bloody stump." Sibaja refers to Grecia as she, although no one knows its gender. It would take a blood test to determine its sex, an added stress, Sibaja says, the injured bird didn't need.
SIBAJA: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "When the veterinarian did that first exam, we all thought she would have to be euthanized," says Sibaja. Toucans need their beaks for everything from eating to regulating body temperature. But he says you could tell Grecia wanted to live. She sang as best she could and would try to eat. Sibaja says the decision was made to get the bird a new beak. News of Grecia and her prosthesis campaign went viral. A 3-D printing company from the U.S. with partners in Costa Rica signed on to make the beak.
(SOUNDBITE OF "TOUCAN NATION" DOCUMENTARY)
KAHN: Filmmaker Paula Heredia documented Grecia's year-long recovery for Discovery Channel's Animal Planet.
PAULA HEREDIA: Well, everybody was working for free. So, you know, all the scientists - I mean, there was a group of scientists.
KAHN: Including a dentist, experts in nanotechnology, and industrial designers. In the end, Grecia was fitted with a synthetic beak made of nylon, assembled in a 3-D laser printer. Filmmaker Heredia says Grecia's rehabilitation was inspiring, but equally motivating was how the small bird sparked a national movement for animal rights. Under current Costa Rican law, there was no punishment other than a miniscule fine to whoever brutalized the toucan.
HEREDIA: So when the case of Grecia happened and you went so viral around the world, Grecia became this icon for the need of changing in the law.
KAHN: Animal rights activist Juan Carlos Peralta says citizens had gotten a ban on hunting wild animals passed. But he says a bill to protect and punish animal abusers had stalled.
JUAN PERALTA: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "Grecia motivated and moved our entire country to do more," says Peralta.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Chanting) Di no al maltrato animal. Di no al maltrato animal.
KAHN: Chanting no to animal abuse, Costa Ricans held several marches like this one last Sunday, and they gathered signatures to force the bill to a vote of the legislature, which should happen by the end of the year.
(SOUNDBITE OF BIRD CHIRPING)
KAHN: ZooAve animal caretaker Ronald Sibaja says he believes there's a reason why things happen the way they do.
SIBAJA: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "What happened to Grecia was terrible," he says, "but brought awareness of animal abuse in our country." He says now he hopes something good will come out of something so ugly. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Alajuela, Costa Rica.
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