The Sloth Garden
The Sloth Garden works as a pre-release enclosure right in the middle of the center! We have arboreal shelters and elevated feeding systems installed to feed and house the animals up in the canopy to offer them a more natural lifestyle. The enclosure is an Open Air Enclosure Design and has simply trees of six different species surrounded by an aluminium fence and connected by thick rope to enable natural movement between the trees.
The Spider Monkey Enclosure
The Spider Monkeys are our largest permanent residents here at the center and possess a very high intelligence. Spider monkeys are native to Costa Rica and our 4 friends have sadly been very abused by humans in different ways in the past. For example; Ghandi was tied up in a bar and fed alcohol and fast food his whole life, and arrived to us addicted to alcohol. Withdrawl is not easy for a monkey and sad side-effects include violent outburst despite his otherwise gentle nature.
The Spider Monkeys are not releasable due to their affinity to humans and the wish to end human vs. wildlife conflict, so we aspire to make them a spacious beautiful and natural enclosure where they can see the sky, play in the trees and touch the grass.
The enclosure will the a total of 57 square meters and 8 meters high.
Construction is currently still underway with donated materials.
We thank especially Natalie Ballentine for 3 roles 6x3 meters of wire, and Alma Frontera for 60 tubes.
If you would like to donate as a private person or as a company please let us know! It offers our abused and rescued animals a safe space to be for the rest of their lives.
The Howler Monkey Enclosure
The Howler Monkeys arrived to the Rescue Center mainly due to the pet trade and the tourist industry. However the Howler Monkeys are releasable! It is possible to train them to understand where to look for food and to keep away from humans and the ground, though it will take a few years for them to grow big enough and to form a solid troop.
Their new enclosure is 9x6 meters and took our biologists a bit of creativity to add enrichment to the enclosure as the monkeys were already in it (due to an emergency move)!
Enrichment for our Rescued Animals!
At the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center, keeping the animals safe, healthy and well fed is only the beginning of the work here. One of the most important (and the most fun!) aspects of the work here is Animal/Environmental Enrichment.
Environmental enrichment is an animal husbandry principle that seeks to enhance the quality of captive animal care by providing the environmental stimuli necessary for optimal physiological and psychological well-being. In practice, this means using creative, imaginative and innovative ideas aimed at keeping captive animals occupied and increasing the range and diversity of behavioural opportunities and providing more stimulating and responsive environments. So though the animals here are safe, happy and well fed- they need to keep their minds busy and entertained as well as it gives the animals a sense of control over their environment by giving them choices. Most wild animals spend most of their time foraging or hunting for food, which for captive animals is provided for them which means they have a lot of time left over. Many of the animals here at the Rescue Center, like the monkeys and the birds, are of high intelligence so it is important that we help provide them with an interesting environment, toys and opportunity for play, but also because so many of them have suffered psychological torture, and must therefore re-learn how to live full and happy lives. This is where enrichment comes into play, and ''play'' is really what animal enrichment is all about. Here at the Rescue Center, we ask staff and volunteers to provide enrichment for all of the animals here on a daily basis. Different types of enrichment include habitat enrichment, social enrichment, sensory enrichment and tactile enrichment. It may sound complicated but it is basically just another word of using ones imagination to help animals live a full life. See below for various examples of imaginative enrichment devices our wonderful volunteers have created!
Instead of just putting the food in a bowl for the animals, find or create a foraging ball and hide some of their food inside the ball. Monkeys love to forage for their food! The birds pick at their food for a long time and look for it in fun places, as well as need to sharpen their beaks on toys so making them a string of toys will make them happy all day!
A fruit necklace or a popsicle works wonders!
An empty cage is a sad cage. Whenever possible, try to event new and imaginative ways to enrich the environment in the animals' enclosure. This means trying to make sure enclosure as interesting as possible for the animals and remind them of their natural habitats. For example the Capuchins love to play with logs and look for bugs! The kinkajous are nocturnal so need a lot of darkness, so one of the volunteers kindly donated a hammock and the kinkajous love the soft dark spot! The birds need branches and fresh leaves to move around and play in, Spike the hedge hog needs tree trunks and fresh leaves to sleep in etc.
Tactile enrichment simply means adding new things for the animals to touch. What is most important is that they have constant variety, meaning new items are introduced into their enclosure every day and then taken out and replaced by new ones. Freeze some water and the grate it into a pile of snow, an old (but clean!) brush, a ball etc.
Senses are extremely important to animals; it helps them to understand their environment and who is in it. Sensory enrichment includes visual, olfactory (smell), auditory (hearing), taste and tactile stimulation. Playing music or sounds of nature provides auditory stimulation that can both excite or calm an animal. Tactile stimulation might be a scratching post or a pile of snow! Providing new smells in an animal’s exhibit can encourage exploration and sometimes triggers territorial behaviors like rubbing and scent marking. A wide variety of scents are used for enrichment including spices, cooking extracts, perfumes and animal urine. Sensory enrichment is extremely important, and it can be as simple as introducing a new smell! Like creating tube guessers field with different foods or objects for the monkeys to look for and find and play with.
Examples: Colorful wooden blocks in different shapes and sizes strung together are excellent toys for most animals and easy to make!
Foraging balls (Red ball Capuchin Monkey Wim is playing with below) is a great and easy way to stimulate the animals.
The Olingo and Kinkajous are noctural and love tunnels to play and hide in!
If you have any ideas or photos, or even donations, you want to share you are more than welcome to email us with new ideas!
Below are some examples and ideas from other animal centers:
Enrichment ideas and observations from previous volunteers!
The Kinkajous have a very long tongue. In nature they use it to get nectar out of flowers. That´s why we hung a cardboard role (the inside of a toiletpaper role) in their cage. Once a week we put honey in the role. The Kinkajous had to use their tongues to lick the honey out of the roles. They really loved it. Every time we repeated this, the Kinkajous were very exited and almost could not wait until the honey was in the role. Sometimes they tried to get the honey out of the honey bottle before we could put it in the roles and they were very clever about it. It took only a few seconds until Neela (the female) found out how to open the bottle with her teeth and realized that she had to tip the bottle to get the honey out of it.
The monkeys should use their fingers more often. Therefore we created a bamboo pipe with closed ends and a little hole at one end, pointing towards the ground. We hung it so that it could swing freely in the cage. This way, it would be more difficult for the monkeys to reach it. Twice a week we filled it up with monkey pellets. The challenge for the monkeys was to get the pellets from the bamboo pipe.
We really enjoyed watching how the monkeys were searching for a solution to get the pellets out. Mavi (one of the howler babies) climbed up the pipe and shook it until some of the pellets fell to the ground. Catherine (another howler baby) just waited for the pellets to fall down.
The White Faces bit through the string, so that the pipe fell to the ground. Then they rolled it on the ground until the pellets fell out. To make it more difficult for them, we fixed the bamboo pipe with a piece of wire the next day. But the White Faces jumped on the pipe again until it fell to the ground. Now we use a strong rope, so they can´t destroy it.
Fruits in a Bottle
With an old plastic bottle we created a new toy for the White Faces. We cut two holes in he bottom side of the bottle and melted the edges with a lighter to make them softer. We filled the bottles up with fruit strips and hung them in the cage.
Wim immediatly tried to get the fruit strips out of the bottle. It took her only a few minutes to figure it out. When she got her third piece of fruit, Simona became interested and tried it too. First she used her teeth. Then she realized that she had to use her fingers.
We observed how active the Spider Monkeys are and wanted to give them something to play with. That´s why we gave them a ball. First the Spider Monkeys were very reserved. Suddenly there was something new in their cage. A bit insecure and careful, one of them started to touch the ball. After touching it, the monkey jumped back to see what had happend. The others just watched her. The Spider Monkeys didn´t play with the ball as we had expected them to, but this is okay. Even if the animals ignore the enrichment item, it is still effective. The animals are surely aware of its presence.
After a few days we had to remove the ball from the cage because the monkeys started to destroy it. A sign for us that they were finally using it. Now we want to buy a harder ball, maybe leather ball, for them to play with.
We built a new, hanging climbing structure for the Spider Monkeys, made of leftovers from old beds, like a ladder for example. Besides being a new toy, it was also a new material for them (metal). Their first reaction was very similar to the reaction hey had had to the ball. But after a while they really enjoyed climbing, jumping an swinging on the new climbing structure.
Piece of wood with honey
We wanted to train the White Faces to combine vaious tools or steps in order to achieve something. Therefore we made little holes in a pice of wood and put honey in it. The idea was to show the monkeys that they had to use a little stick, rather than their fingers, to get the honey out of the hole. But the holes we made were too big so the monkeys used their tongue and fingers to get the honey. Now we know the holes should be smaller.