Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 28 November 2020

Environment

Abu Dhabi school pupil goes around the world to share love of animals

Mario Azpurua-Montero, 11, produces videos about animals on location across the globe

An animal-obsessed Abu Dhabi school pupil is sharing his expertise with other children in a series of globe-trotting videos.

Mario Azpurua-Montero, 11, produces clips which he releases on his own Instagram page and Youtube channel, covering everything from sharks, to ancient Egypt’s mummified animals, and Aldabara tortoises.

In the past two years, he has released 20 videos, 14 of which he filmed on location all over the world accompanying his father, who is an Etihad pilot, on trips abroad.

Children have flocked to his channel in recent months as the pandemic forced schools to bring learning online.

He recently held a series of sessions for hundreds of children in the United States.

And he encouraged kids all over the world to get in touch for help in distance learning with any animal-related questions, writing: "If you are E-Learning or homeschooling like me, you can ask any animal related questions, I am not going anywhere so I will do my best to answer you and learn together, #keepcalm and #staysafe.”

He said he enjoys sharing everything he has learned with other kids.

“I research animals so whenever I go out in the field I can say a bunch of stuff about them,” said the Raha International School pupil.

His favourite trip was to South Africa, where he visited before the outbreak of Covid-19. He is currently working on turning the footage into several videos.

“It was so much fun. There was no glass, no cages. It was just me and nature.

"I saw penguins. I saw baboons. I saw ostriches. I also saw fur seals. I saw cheetahs, elephants and lots more.”

His mother, Nani Montero, 41, from Venezuela, who films his videos for him, said his interest in animals began very early on, before he could even speak.

“We started going to zoos and kids followed him because he would tell them about the animals,” she said.

His obsession only grew in school, where he struggled to concentrate.

“There were many red flags. I took him so many places and everywhere they said no, he’s fine. But still I was a little bit worried, because I could feel he wasn’t socialising as much as I wanted,” she said.

She spent a lot of time worrying about whether he was happy, and would often fight with him as all he wanted to do was sit on his iPad researching animals.

“One day I went to bed and I was super sad, and the next morning I woke up at 4am with an idea and I said, what if I just put these two things together, the iPad and animals and support his strengths instead of fighting about the weaknesses,” she said.

He got to work, and once he had something to show, she got in touch with producers she met when she was working as a broadcast journalist in Venezuela, to ask their opinion and help to polish them up. They continue to produce his videos.

It was a turning point, for all the family.

“It was a huge success, for many reasons. Mario has been happy ever since then.”

Six months ago, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“He said I want to send a message to every kid who feels different. Different is okay. Just follow your passion,” said Ms Montero.

“We were crying.”

Updated: July 31, 2020 01:01 PM

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