HISTORY of Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center
The Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center used to be located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, in a town called Moin in Limon, up until March 2015. There is a sad history behind how we were forced to move from there and we hope by reading this you will understand some of the backstory behind the center and some of the missions and objectives of the Center now.
The 2 KM-long stretch of beach in front of Moin and the location of the old Rescue Center was a habitat for the Leatherback Turtles. This was the largest nesting ground for this species of endangered turtles in all of the Caribbean. Many volunteers, including the local police, gave their time and effort to help protect these animals at night from poachers. Jairo Mora Sandoval was one of them. Jairo was a young sea turtle conservationist who worked for an external NGO who came to the Limon beach regularly for years to help protect the turtles and study them. Jairo lived at the center the last three years before the move from Limon.
On May 31, 2013 this young man was murdered.
His naked, beaten body was tied behind a truck and he was dragged up and down the beach. Jairo died of asphyxiation after blunt force trauma to the head and his face being in the sand. Jairo died on the very beach he spent his life protecting. In July of that year, arrests were made and even though geolocators and phone transcripts put two men on the beach that night, there were no convictions. Evidence was "lost" and omitted under Judge Alvarado. As a result of this violent murder, the volunteers of both the local community and the Rescue Center who patrolled the beach became too afraid to go out at night. The beach was no longer protected or safe, and became open to poachers.
During her stay at our Rescue Center, volunteer Janine Klein filmed interviews and collected informations about Jairo`s story to create a video. She named it "Jairo`s Official Trailer".
The Loss of the Moín Rescue Center
In 2013, a bid was launched to build a commercial port on the Moín beach where the Rescue Center was previously located. It was won by a company from The Netherlands (Maersk) who has 80 different mega ports worldwide. In December 2013, pending an environmental study, the project was good to go.
The company approached the center asking them to be the face of the project. Representatives came, took pictures, shook hands and said they would stay in touch. The company also promised to build schools on-site and provide the region with over 900 new jobs.
Documents for the environmental assessment were lost 5 times by government officials and when the company finally came to the table, it was with an assessment lead by biologist Mr. Chacon.
And the megaport, being primarily automated, is operated by only 12 people.
Mr. Chacon once worked with and was Jairo Sandoval’s boss. He now workes as the biologist for the Dutch company and is paid extremely well. He assessed the Moin beach and declared that there would be no negative environmental impact as there were no Leatherbacks on the beach, despite both empirical evidence and actual photos of Mr. Chacon himself working with turtles on that very beach before the interest of the Dutch company.
This final assessment was done quietly and gave the company the environmental green-light they needed to move forward and build their mega-port. At this time Marielos and Bernal, the founders and owners of the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center, went to the company confindent that they would save the center. The company wanted no part of it and listened to neither reason not pleas.
In 2015, there was a huge celebration of the sale of the land as a ''public interest'' asset and creation of a port, and congratulations went out from the government to the company. Sarita Chinchilla (Manager of the Rescue Center and Volunteer coordinator) attempted to attend the celebrations and instead was remove from the celebrations with police escort. The ten acres of land where Jairo was killed and 40 acres of land just off coast (a coral reef) were taken for the building of the proposed port. A 3 KM long road was built straight through the forest that acted as biological corridor, fragmenting the forests and was done so forcable and abruptly that a troop of Howler Monkeys were separeted from each other.
In January 2015, the company commanded the Rescue Center to vacate the land. Bernal would not give up the Rescue Center without a fight and contacted an environmental lawyer, Lic. Rojas, who wanted to help save the sanctuary.
Mr. Rojas said that everything that was done to put the port in place was illegal.
On February 4, 2015 the center was given 5 days to move 67 rescued animals from the site.
They had no vets for sedating the animals, no money, no trucks, no material for new enclosures and no place to go. They were told that if the center was still in operation on February 9th then all the animals would be taken. In order to show the center that they were serious with their threats, 5 two-toed sloths were removed from the center and no information about their well being or whereabouts were given.
Mr. Rojas stepped in and managed to get an extension of one month in order to move.
This is the day Moin cried.
During this month, the government came in and cut down surrounding trees, as instructed by the shipping company. Monkeys (three different species; Capuchins, Howlers and Spiders), sloths and birds lost their habitat and died. The sound of chainsaws and machinery surrounded the center.
During this time, a drive-by shooting put 6 bullets in Mr. Rojas’ home, and Sarita Chinchilla was followed and watched, and feared for her life. Her dog disappeared and was suspected to have been killed. Conservationists turned their backs on her, did not listen to her as horrible rumours were spread about her, Jairo and the existence of the center in order to further the cause of the mega port. Marielos was threated under gunpoint to leave.
Four hours drive away, a friend of Marielos offered the center his 1/2 acre to temporarily recreate the Wildlife Center. During the next frantic 3 weeks trucks went back and forth, sometimes making 2 round trips a day to transfer enclosures, material and animals. Due to the travel and stress on the animals, fourteen sloths, an owl and five 2-toed sloths that the center were caring for, all died.
The center was keept alive thanks to the spirit of the amazing volunteers.
Two weeks after the move there were 14 volunteers and by July 2015 the number had gone up to 38 volunteers.
This is the situation today and why we are so eternally grateful for volunteers and kind donators online to help with the animals and new center! And now you are part of the history of the center too.
Thank you so much for your help, however small, - it really makes a difference for the Rescue Center's future and its ability to help animals and the environment.