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Superhero dog takes on park garbage in Chile

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SANTIAGO, CHILE (Reuters) - Sam the four-legged superhero works to keep a park in this South American capital clean and green. The dog's superpower? Collecting garbage as a role model for visitors.

The border collie takes regular walks in Santiago's metropolitan park Parquemet with his owner, and has become famous wearing a green cape in a comic used as an educational guide.

It all started when Sam and Mr Gonzalo Chiang had to stop again and again in the city's largest green area to pick up plastic bottles, masks, cans and food packaging.

"On Sam's walks we began to find a lot of garbage," Mr Chiang said in an interview. "From that, the need to come prepared to take away the garbage that we found on each visit arose."

In April alone, Sam and Mr Chiang collected 602 masks, 585 bottles and 304 cans in addition to clothing, helmets and food wrappers, according to an official count.

"The walk is a good opportunity to clean, rather than litter," Mr Chiang said.

Park officials were impressed by Sam, taken for walks at the tourist attraction at least three times a week, and decided to use his image in its park care campaign.

Ms Catalina Aravena, an illustrator employed by the government, turned the 5½ year-old collie into a comic named Sam, The Superhero of Parquemet, telling visitors to take their waste with them or use one of the more than 40 recycling points throughout the park.

"This became much more widespread than expected," Ms Aravena said. "It reached different schools and it has been spread very well on social media."

The park - which includes a zoo, several hiking trails and a funicular railway - launched anti-litter campaigns last year urging drink vendors to switch from plastic to glass cups, and started classifying garbage into separate bins.

Sam and Mr Chiang "have inspired us to accelerate this education process and structure this garbage classification," said the park's acting director Eduardo Villalobos.