San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Forest fires

Costa Rica's 'Toño the Pizote' wants a summer without forest fires

With the approach of Costa Rica’s driest time of the year, propaganda to prevent forest fires has begun flying. Spearheaded by Costa Rica’s own version of Smokey Bear, Toño the Pizote, the “Summer Without Forest Fires” campaign launched on Wednesday.

In the absence of American Black Bears like Smokey, Costa Rica selected the raccoon-like pizote, or coati, as the official forest fire spokescreature in 1988 due to the animal’s habit of shrieking to warn other animals during a fire. Toño has his own Twitter, Facebook and this song written by members of the National System of Conservation Area’s band:

The Environment Ministry and the National Commission of Forest Fires (CONIFOR) hope to educate the public about fire prevention with the campaign, using the tagline “Heaven is Burning.”  According to data from the Environment Ministry, 99 percent of all forest fires in Costa Rica are caused by human carelessness.

CONIFOR has 937 firefighters distributed throughout the country for March and April, traditionally the two worst months for forest fires. So far this year 14.9 hectares of land have burned in forest fires, according to CONIFOR.

Contact Lindsay Fendt at

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