This Moving Doc Shows How an Abused Toucan Inspired Costa Rica’s Fight for Animal Rights

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An inspirational tale of cross-species solidarity and international animal rights activism will be making its way to Animal Planet this week in the form of the 40-minute documentary, Toucan Nation. Directed by New York-based Central American filmmaker Paula Heredia, the title references Costa Rica, which in addition to serving as a home for countless bird species is also light years ahead of most nations when it comes to environmental justice.

So it’s no surprise that when a young toucan was discovered mutilated in the small provincial capital of Grecia, the entire country rallied to his cause. Named after his hometown, the toucan Grecia was left without the top part of his beak when he was attacked by a group of vandals, and his harrowing story quickly spread throughout international media.

As Costa Rican activists pressured the government to pass new laws criminalizing animal abuse and guaranteeing stronger legal protection for animals, a coalition of doctors, dentists, and designers came together around a Costa Rican animal rescue center named ZooAve. There, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, the team was able to 3-D print a new beak for Grecia.

Shot in a glossy documentary style that is a breath of fresh air from Animal Planet’s reality TV-heavy programming, Toucan Nation captures the drama of Grecia’s ordeal while profiling the international animal rights movement that rose up around him. The documentary will be the first of many long form documentaries co-produced by Animal Planet as part of their ambitious new series Animal Planet Presents.

Toucan Nation airs August 24 at 10 p.m. on Animal Planet.