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Young friend of bears takes animal protection award

The Helsinki Humane Society (HESY) on Friday handed the Topelius prize for animal protection to 12-year-old Otso Riiali, who had donated 200 euros to brighten up the life of bears at Helsinki's Korkeasaari Zoo in October. He made the money selling home-made lingonberry juice with his grandmother.

Otso Riiali ja HESYn kunniakirja. Image: YLE/Juha Kivioja

Two years ago, Otso visited Korkeasaari Zoo and found the bears to be lethargic. He resolved to do something to help them and succeeded—with his 200 euros, the zoo will buy new trees for bears to play on.

Otso’s actions were an exemplary display of compassionate attitude towards animals on behalf of youth, HESY says. They also demonstrated how small deeds could have great significance.

HESY President Hannele Luukkainen expressed the hope that other youngsters would take a leaf out of Otso’s book.

“Otso could have kept all he made on selling juice for himself, but he decided to give a part of it to help animals. Otso demonstrated an exceptional ability to act. He did not stop at seeing how dull things were for bears, but rather chose to act. Many notice that animals are treated badly, but Otso’s example shows that something can also be done about it,” Luukkainen said.

Meanwhile Otso is not blowing his own trumpet. He is planning to continue working to improve the life of bears, but before that he wants to take a holiday from the media spotlight.

After YLE News published the story of his donation in English, a Chinese student at the University of Helsinki translated the story for her blog. Otso became a minor celebrity in China as tens of thousands flocked to read the tale of the young animal benefactor.