The Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center aims to help wildlife by all means necessary. The center is a place that rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured wildlife with all means available. Our first and foremost goal is to protect and 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 their individual backgrounds of how they came to be with us. 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 of the green parrots respectively. Our Kinkajous Daniel and Neela for instance were found by construction workers.
Usually the center receives a call from someone with the request to come and rescue an animal that has been found injured or abandoned. Than everything has to be fast, a separated enclosure needs to be appropriately prepared, the vet needs to be informed and prepare the animal hospital and volunteers need to be briefed for the following procedure. New arriving animals are confused and scared, often injured which is why a delicate handling is important! In dependance to the species, stress can be deadly for animals. This is why we always consult our vet to do a pre check-up to decide if there is an urgent treatment needed. Unfortunately injuries such as electrocution at electrical wires, traffic accidents, dog attacks are most common. 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.
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 and first aid.
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. After the first pre check-up and most urgent treatment, a second examine follows by vets. In cooperation with these vets, we determine what actions need to be done for each individual animal. Care, diet, 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.
Below you can see the rehabilitation process of Amy the sloth. She suffered from a machete cut in her face. Due to the very slow metabolism of sloths in general, it took Amy more than two years to completely recover from her injury. Now she lives happily in our pre-release enclosure, the sloth-garden, until she will be released back into the wild.
Apart from all the medical attention we give injured animals, there are animals that require active enrichment in and around their cages as well. This 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.
Below you can see Violetto our warrior sloth, who lost one arm after suffering from electrocution. He is still fighting on but due to the hard work of volunteers and vets he makes progress. First crawling on the ground with our wildlife biologist and animal keeper Victoria, later on climbing on his own.
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.
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. 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. Further examples 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. Violetto, 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. Each release is a long bureaucratic procedure and is under strict control by the MINAE (Ministerio de Ambient y Energía). This is due to an extensive environmental assessment in order to ensure best conditions for each animal as well as their future ecosystem.