Digital culture roundup: How X saved a kitten and fell in love with an opossum

Ausa and Sia weren’t common animal names — until Argentine social media users turned them into celebrities

Last December, while Argentina was in the throes of the change of government, the X algorithm started to recommend content about a young woman who was helping baby white-eared opossums recover from an accident. Suddenly, the Argentine X community became obsessed with one of them: a tiny baby called Sia.

Agustina Volpato, a dog groomer from Santa Fe province, has been rescuing animals since she was young, working with her sister who is a veterinarian. She’s used to sharing the recovery process of all kinds of species — but Sia has captivated social media like nobody else.

“All of Sia’s followers want to know how she starts the day. They make fan art and share experiences with me,” Volpato told the Herald

White-eared opossums are a species of mammal common in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil. With small, mean faces and sharp, pointy teeth, they’re not prime influencer candidates in the animal world. But Sia is changing all that.

“Sia is turning people from feeling disgusted to liking this species,” Volpato said. “A little opossum is saving lives.”

Volpato prepares breakfast for Sia every morning and shares a picture of the animal enjoying it. Then, she weighs the opossum and includes facts and information about the ideal conditions for her to be released. 

Sia will be released into the wild soon: she is not a pet and Volpato strongly advises against this, despite users insisting that she create a lasting bond. “I avoid petting Sia or showing affection, I only provide food for her. That way it’s easier to part ways,” the rescuer explained in a post.

Volpato receives messages from users who thank her for sharing Sia’s progress, she says. “They tell me that Sia’s strength helps them overcome difficulties in their lives, or that this is a breath of fresh air in the middle of so much bad news,” Volpato said. 

Other users tell her she should be helping poor children, instead of animals. These comments aren’t new for her — nor for Jung Park, who has shared the story of Ausa and sowed hope for the community again over the past week.

Ausa is a rescue kitten found under the highway in the Buenos Aires barrio of Barracas. Speaking to the Herald, Park explained that he heard a cat mewling and posted about it on X. “I asked for a 7-meter ladder to try to catch him, and someone from La Plata — 50 km away — said he would bring one,” he said. The rest is history.

Ausa the cat was named after the company that runs the highways in Buenos Aires City, Autopistas Urbanas Sociedad Anónima, or AUSA by its acronym in Spanish. The team helped in the rescue, providing three cranes to get the cat out of danger. During the ordeal one of the cranes broke and a neighbor came to the rescue with a long ladder to successfully retrieve the animal.

AUSA decided to cooperate after the firefighters couldn’t. They showed up in large part because X users saw the post and called for help, since Park couldn’t do it all by himself.  

El que no llora no mama, says the tango — a phrase which roughly translates as “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” — and the squeaky wheel gets the grease, said Park. “I needed help, I asked for it, and the whole community responded. In situations like these it doesn’t matter who you voted for, people want to help.”

In the two days it took to bring Ausa to safety, he asked for help with ladders, cranes, phone calls and a trap cage to trick the kitty. But he got even more than he bargained for: people responded with food for him, because they could see he was alone and busy; water for the AUSA workers, enough cat food for a couple of weeks, and a family that wants to adopt Ausa.

“This is what social media is good for, but it’s important to ask for help,” he says.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald