We are all now officially existing in the era of Pokemon Go, folks. It’s been downloaded by more than 40 million people worldwide, which is more than the entire population of Canada. The nonconformist rebel in me has been fruitlessly trying to avoid this craze, but it’s now simply become impossible. I relent! For those of you who don’t know what it is, allow me to (try to) explain. The aim of the game is to catch Pokemon. These lil fellas have been hidden across the world in real locations, and you can see them through your phone camera. The technical term is ‘augmented reality’, but in layman’s talk it means that people are wandering around in all sorts of unusual places across the real world trying to find Pokemon using their phones. It might not seem like it, but Pokemon Go & animals in the real world are unexpected friends.
Whilst Pokemon Go has attracted some controversy by causing accidents, it has also unexpectedly led to a few good news stories too. Young’uns Sara Perez and her buddy Matthew Teague were playing Pokemon Go in the park a couple of weeks back in South Houston, when they happened upon an odd looking box. On further inspection, it was a cage of 20 hamsters and 7 baby mice that had been abandoned, sweltering in the heat.
“We were just surprised and confused, and we looked around the park and called out to see if anyone was there, but there was no one,” Perez told Click2Houston. The animals were left without any water and only a little food. “I had my friend [Matthew] pick up the box and we carried it to my house, and we set them on our table and just gave them clean water and fresh food and bedding.”
Sara and Matthew took the animals to the Houston SPCA, who are now taking care of the animals. And if it wasn’t for Pokemon Go, these little furry guys and gals might not have survived. “I never would have walked that far from my house if I didn’t want to take over that [Pokemon] gym,” Perez said. “But I’m glad I did.”
But wait, there’s more! After scouring Houston SPCA’s Facebook page, I found that one of the hamsters has already been adopted by a little girl named Zoe, now living in his forever home. It’s been reported that three more hamsters are also enjoying a similarly happy ending, having been adopted since the rescue. Hopefully more families will come forward to adopt the rest of the little fluffballs soon.
This wasn’t the only rescue, mind. Two young women in Texas found an injured puppy whilst they were out playing Pokemon Go, and managed to raise enough money within the space of a few days to cover his medical bills. Their GoFundMe page raised $2,000 for the pup and other abandoned animals like him in the local area.
This particular puppy has now been adopted by a loving family, and the adopter commented on the GoFundMe page to say he is “fitting right in”. Now doesn’t that just make your heart swell.
Meanwhile in Indiana, one animal shelter had a flash of genius. Muncie Animal Shelter have cleverly seen Pokemon Go as the perfect opportunity to encourage kiddlywinks to come and walk their adoptable dogs while they play the game. “I just thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could pair these people who are already out walking with shelter dogs who need exercise and stimulation?” the director of the shelter Phil Pechingpaugh told Upworthy. Now the local kids can help animals and catch Pokemon simultaneously. Bonus.
The ad that Phil helped devise was shared on Facebook over 28,000 times and has been a wild success. They welcomed 70 willing dog-walkers in the space of a day on one occasion. As there have been so many visitors, a system was developed so that Pokemon Go players could walk the dogs in groups, with one person focusing on the dog while the rest catch Pokemon, so luckily the dog would get enough love and attention. It’s a win-win situ.
Pokemon Go & animals have also been interacting in the wild. Then the National Park Service in the US of A are pleased that Pokemon Go has led to more people visiting their 58 national parks. Biologists are asking users to record the species they come across. University of Guelph entomologist Morgan Jackson told LA Times “I always thought [Pokemon] was a really, really great opportunity to get the natural history and biology community to engage with people who we don’t always get to engage with.” Jackson has started the #PokeBlitz hashtag on Twitter for Pokemon Go players to use when they come across unusual species so scientists can help answer their questions. In this case, Pokemon Go is helping people to become more aware of the animals and insects in their local area, embracing the good old outdoors.
Whatever you might think of the game, it has dramatically changed people’s behaviour, and with change comes opportunity. Video games are often associated with static inactivity, but Pokemon Go is encouraging people to proactively explore far corners of their neighbourhood, and get an extra dose of sunlight and fresh air whilst discovering both real and virtual creatures. The added bonus is that this has had nothing short of life-enhancing consequences for these abandoned or shelter animals. Who could have imagined Pokemon Go & animals would work so well together?
Image courtesy of Wendy’s Misfits/GoFundMe, Morgan Jackson/Twitter, David Steen/Twitter, Sara Perez, Muncie Animal Shelter/Facebook, Houston SPCA/Facebook.