About Us - Our Objectives and The People
At the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center, we are dedicated to protect and help endangered Costa Rican wildlife with all means available to us. Our first and foremost goal is to ensure the welfare of the animals at the center and help them recover from both physical and psychological wounds that have arisen from their past suffering. The mission the Rescue Center is based on three steps:
Rescue - Rehabilitation - Release
All the animals at the center have different backgrounds of how they came to be with us and there are no two stories that are 'the same'. When they arrive, the stories can vary with respect to many different aspects, such as who found them and how they were rescued, how they were treated in the past and their reaction to that treatment in the past and the future, the conditions they are in when they arrive, what type of injury and problem they are struggling with, and what their chances for recovery are.
Sometimes animals are brought in by local people, tourists, or even volunteers, who have found them injured or abandoned in the streets and the wilderness. These rescued animals are often smaller or younger animals, or infants that have lost their mother and would have no chance of survival on their own. The opossums, which have been successfully released, and Feluco, a howler monkey who lost his mother at a very young age, are examples of such rescues. Other animals that arrive at the Rescue Center used to be pets, whose owners were not able to care for them any longer, or - and most often - they have been confiscated from illegal pet trade. This was the case Oscar the goat and the green parrots, respectively. Oscar was brought to the center by his previous owner, who was not able to care for the little goat kid after Oscar's mother had died when he was just a few days old. The green parrots were either held as pets and confiscated by police, or donated to the center directly by their previous owners.
Many animals are rescued by center members themselves. Usually the center gets a call from someone with the request to come and rescue an animal that has been found injured or abandoned. These injuries can be the result of electrocution at electrical wires, traffic accidents, dog attacks or similar circumstances. Examples of such cases are Mulan and Violeto, two sloths who had been found lying on the ground with severe burns all over their chest, shoulders and arms, due to electrocution at wires that they were trying to climb. However, it is not only the Costa Rican people that request help, but also police and officials, who confiscate animals from ships, trucks, trains and even private property, to prevent wild animals from being held as pets or used as tourist attractions. Mavi and Charlyn, two female howlers, have a history of being used as tourist attractions and their owners had trained them to pose for pictures with tourists. A severe case of neglect and wrong treatment is Ghandi, a male spider monkey, who was held in the corner of a pub and fed alcohol, coffee, cigarettes and nuts and arrived at the center as an addict.
The calls come from all over Costa Rica and in order to give the animals shelter at the center, staff often has to travel quite far across the country, sometimes accompanied by volunteers to help with transportation.
At the center, we aim to rehabilitate animals and give them the best possible conditions to recover from their physical and sometimes also mental wounds. When new animals come in, they are examined by vets and in cooperation with these vets, we determine what actions need to be done for each individual animal. Care, treatments and retraining are within the responsibility of permanent staff, and volunteers often get a chance to take over parts of tasks depending on the requirements of the tasks and each volunteer's qualifications. We often find biologists, zoologists, vets and nurses coming to volunteer at the Rescue Center and we are more than happy to involve them with changing bandages, giving medication and helping with rehabilitation if possible.
Apart from all the medical attention we give injured animals, there are animals that require active enrichment in and around their cages as well. Active enrichment can take many different forms and shapes and it consists of building toys, climbing constructions, houses and swings, giving animals additional opportunities to spend time in a more natural environment, or providing a diversity of food in different forms and manners in order to keep them healthy and challenge them to follow their instincts. This means different things for different animals and our regular evening classes at the center help volunteers to learn not only about the animals' living environment, their behaviour and diet, but they also provide information on useful enrichment.
At the end of every rehabilitation process there usually is the long expected release of an animal. This is what we all are working for at the center and giving each animal the chance to recover and releasing them back into their natural environment - the place where they belong - is what we are hoping for. In 2015 alone, there have been eight two-toed sloths, one toucan, one anteater and one kinkajou that have been released. This year we already count one iguana, two turtles and six opossums to those animals that we could send back into nature. At the moment, several sloths are still waiting to be released.
Unfortunately, a release is not always possible to achieve for every animal that is brought to the center, and the reasons can vary. The main reasons why some of the animals are here permanently is due to them having a bad history with humans. For instance, some of them have been trained and treated very poorly as a pet and therefore, they would be a potential risk for the local population if they were released. Anther reasons can be a physical conditions that will never allow them to recover completely, or sometimes something as simple as a species not being native to Costa Rica. For example, most monkeys, except the Howlers, that have been pets or abused by humans, cannot be retrained to be wild and it is therefore impossible to release them. Furtherexamples are the marmosets and tamarins, which are not native to Costa Rica and might endanger some local species or might not find the proper conditions to survive, if they were released in Costa Rica. Violeto, a sloth that has been badly electrocuted, lost his right arm and will never be in a medical condition that would allow a safe release. At the Rescue Center and especially with the new property, we try to guarantee the best possible environment for these animals, so they can find a nice home and a good replacement for their natural habitat with us.
Knowing the animals' history and the necessary conditions for release is an integral part of the process and it is in our responsibility to guarantee a safe environment for all animals, the ones that are free and wild and the ones in our care.
The People - The Eyes, Ears and the Mouth of the Rescue Center
At the Rescue Center, we have many helping hands working very hard to make sure that we can keep up with these principles on a daily base and all year round. Our team of workers consists of permanent staff as well as volunteers, and all of them take up an important part in keeping the center running.
Our team of permanent staff consists of the founders and owners of the center, Marielos and Bernal Lizano, the manager and volunteer coordinator, Sarita Chinchilla, the animal caretaker and biologist Victoria Gehrke, as well as caretakers and kitchen personnel. Not currently located in Costa Rica but also important members of our team are Michelle Rechkemmer our english graphic and logo designer and Linah Hein our german fundraising manager and social media consultant.
In order to manage all the tasks and duties that an animal rescue center requires on a daily base, we depend on the help of motivated and responsible volunteers. Their work involves food preparation, cleaning and maintaining enclosures, building activity toys and providing enrichment for animals, painting and making mosaics in and around the center. Apart from these daily tasks, we also need help with any additional tasks that may come up in the course of the day and most require extra work. At the center we encourage volunteers to become aware, to learn about the animals and the center, to get involved and help others with tasks, questions and problems, and to share their ideas in order to improve structures and the center's facilities. This center counts on the awareness and alertness, the encouragement and feedback, and the strong motivation of the volunteers - they are the eyes. ears and the mouth of the center.