Unless you’ve been living under a Geodude, you’ve probably seen, heard, or read something about Pokémon Go. But did you know some gamers are actually rescuing real animals as they play? Whilst on a hunt for Dratini, Olivia Case rescued a juvenile bat and brought it to the care of Cornell Animal Hospital in Ithica, New York. Since the mobile game was released on July 6th, Cornell Animal Hospital has received a screech owl, rabbits, an opossum, and a baby squirrel from active Pokémon Go players.

Pokémon Go, wildlife conservation, Pokémon, environmental stewardship, animal rescue, animals, augmented reality, Cornell Animal Hospital

You may have noticed crowds of people swarming towards the location of a rare Pokémon. You may have been a victim of distracted walking or you may have lost ten pounds. If you are a kind and serendipitous gamer on a quest to catch ’em all, you may have even protected real wildlife.

“The whole ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All,’ it’s great!” says Victoria Campbell, owner of Wild Things Sanctuary in Ithaca, which specializes in bat rehabilitation. “If you find a little bat when you’re searching for a Zubat, don’t freak out!” says Campbell. Campbell assisted in the care of the baby bat, fittingly named Zubat, thanks to the magic of Pokémon. Beyond calling for animal rescue professionals, those who discover an animal with nearly no HP left may keep them safe by covering them with a box and a sliding piece of cardboard beneath.

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Pokémon Go has come to the rescue of animals beyond Ithaca. In relatively nearby Rochester, a man desperate to fill his Pokédex stumbled upon eight ducklings stuck in a storm drain; his swift reporting of the distressed ducks resulted in their rescue. In South Houston, two fellow adventurers of digital Kanto saved several hamsters and baby mice, abandoned in a cage in a park. Pokémon Go seems to be facilitating some real interactions with nature, exercise and exploration, even if it is still defined by an omniscient screen. One wonders whether Pokémon Go has potential to protect endangered species suffering under ecological collapse. Perhaps if Pokémon Go had existed in the early 20th century, the passenger pidgey may still be with us.

Via Atlas Obscura